Stress During Pregnancy
Feeling anxious when you're pregnant is normal -- after all, you're about to take on a major new responsibility. And although short-term worry isn't harmful, women whose stress hormones soar due to severe anxiety or depression are more likely to deliver premature or low birth weight babies (probably because stress hormones help trigger labor). Also, high levels of maternal stress hormones may have an impact on a child's psychological development. A 2005 University of Rochester Medical Center study found a link between excessive stress during pregnancy and increased levels of cortisol in kids at age 10. One theory suggests that anxiety in pregnancy increases the mother's own levels of cortisol, which crosses the placenta and influences the baby's brain development, including its stress-response system. These changes may make children more susceptible to anxiety. A more recent study, led by the same investigators, found that feeling anxious during pregnancy may affect your baby's sleep patterns. The researchers suspect that Mom's elevated stress hormones may alter fetal brain development, leading to early-life sleep problems.
Signs that stress may pose a risk to you or your baby include: feeling like you can't shake your anxiety, frequent crying, social withdrawal, and lack of interest in things you usually enjoy. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the December 2007 issue of Parents magazine.
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