How Does Stress Affect The Baby In The Womb?

Cultures across the world dictate that pregnant women should not be subjected to stress. Special care is taken, that the pregnant woman does not have to deal with too many unwanted things. Both physically and otherwise, care should be taken to ensure that pregnant women are not subjected to anything that is unpleasant or harsh on the body.

The reason for the same is the fact that any form of stress that the pregnant mother goes through has a direct impact on the unborn child.

how does stress affect pregnancy in first trimester

Now before dealing with the impact of the mother's stress on the fetus, it is important for us to understand the causes of the stress. Sometimes it is the pregnancy itself and the physical conditions associated with the same (like nausea, weight gain, etc.) that cause a woman to stress out.

At other times, it is some external factors like a recent death in the family or financial problems that are the cause of the stress. Other factors like depression, racism or the very nature of the pregnancy being an unplanned one that is the cause of all of it.

Irrespective of what the cause of stress is, the first thing that you need to do is to find out the cause of the same. Once that is correctly identified, you can work with your doctor, partner, family and friends to arrive at a solution for the same.

It is important for you to realize that the earlier you arrive at a solution for this, the better it is for you and your unborn child.

Here are ways in which stress affects the baby in the womb:

  • Increased Fetal Heart Rate
  • Inflammatory Response
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Fetal Brain Development
  • Possibility Of Miscarriage

§ Increased Fetal Heart Rate

Now this has a very scientific explanation. When any person is stressed, the body releases a number of stress hormones. These hormones are the same ones that are secreted when you are in danger. These power up the muscles in an effort to prepare the body to run if need be. The effect of all such preparation on the part of the body (to run and escape all forms of danger) is that there is an abrupt increase in your heart rate.

This is definitely not a wise development for a pregnant woman. Since the child is growing within you, it is obvious that the child is taking all its nutrition from you. An abrupt change in any of the vital parameters of your body will actually prove to be dangerous for your baby. Thus, for the sake of your child's health and safety it is advisable that you keep away from stress.

§ Inflammatory Response

This is seen in case of unborn children whose mothers are subjected to stress over a prolonged period of time. It is important for you to understand that as the child is growing within you, all its senses are developing. In such a situation, the body's stress management system is no different and that is also developing. At this point if you subject the body to greater amount of stress than what it is used to, it will result in the stress management system not functioning in the way that it is meant to.

This would mean both short as well as long term consequences for your child. In many cases, it is seen that the fetus ends up overreacting and sending out inflammatory responses. These inflammatory responses have a direct impact on the overall pregnancy health of the fetus throughout the nine months and may have an impact on the birth as well.

§ Low Birth Weight

Talking about the complications at birth, this is one of the most common impacts of stress in pregnancy. Due to high levels of stress the fetus is not able to absorb the nutrients from his mother's body properly. As a result, she or he ends up being smaller than what is expected of him or her. This can make a natural delivery impossible and can result in a number of complications at birth.

In some extreme cases, it may also lead to premature birth (and all the complications accompanying the same). Thus, if you want to make the process of labor less painful for you and safer for your baby, it is important for you to take utmost care of yourself throughout the pregnancy and thereby ensure that you are not subjecting your body to any form of stress.

§ Fetal Brain Development

Doctors have established the direct impact of maternal stress on fetal brain development. This has long term implications on the child. Many a times it may so happen that you do not notice any significant impact on your child immediately after he or she is born. In extreme cases, the same may not be observed for a few years post the birth.

However, as the child grows subtle changes in the child's behaviour is noted. This may range from inability to concentrate to abrupt temperament changes. Doctors have found a correlation between this and the child's mother being highly stressed when carrying the child. This also increases the risk of hypertension in such children and makes them fall prey to stress themselves in the later stages of life.

§ Possibility Of Miscarriage

Doctors have established that stress in any form causes chemical havoc in the uterus. This is because of the release of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH). It is a well-established fact that high levels of CRH in the bloodstream can trigger strong uterine contractions. High uterine contractions if occurring at the wrong time can even cause a woman to miscarry.

Thus, talking of the impact of stress on your unborn child, it is important to note that such high levels of stress can even cause your unborn child its life. Thus, no matter what the external conditions are, if you wish the best for your baby, the first and foremost thing that you must do is to ensure that your body is not subjected to any form of physical turmoil and that you are mentally fit and healthy.

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    Read more about: stress baby womb
    Story first published: Friday, July 20, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
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