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Stress During Pregnancy – Implicated in Preterm Birth and Low Birthweight

 

Hello Friends and Mums-to-be:

Did you know your baby’s weight is affected by your stress levels?  According to an interesting research paper from The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology www.AJOG.org, stress during the first trimester of pregnancy causes preterm birth and reduced infant birthweight (Zhu P, Tao F, Hao J, et al., 2010).  The researchers studied the effects of an expectant mother’s exposure to ‘severe life events’ throughout the phases of pregnancy by sampling 1800 women, all of whom delivered after 32 week’s gestation.  Results indicate that women with higher levels of life stress during the first and/or second trimester have an increased risk of preterm birth.  The unit of perceived stress during the first trimester reduced birthweight by 99.09 grams (3.5oz).  Therefore, pregnant women and women expecting to become pregnant should take care to avoid severe stress, especially in the first trimester.

 Previously, the effects of stress on the fetus during pregnancy were unknown, but researchers did know the stress hormone cortisol was higher in the amniotic fluid when a mother had a high level of stress and cortisol (Sarkar et al., 2007).  This means that when a mother becomes stressed out, her unborn baby will release the same hormone.  Prolonged exposure to cortisol leads to illness, depression, and exhaustion in adults… and we now know that it adversely affects unborn infants as well. 

So, it’s time to relax and enjoy being pregnant as much as possible.  Regular exercise, meditation, and emotional support has never been more important.  I found interesting and helpful advice on coping with stress during pregnancy at this website: http://www.pregnancy.org/article/help-stressed-out-moms-works

References:

Zhu P, Tao F, Hao J, et al. Prenatal life events stress: implications for preterm birth and infant birthweight. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2010;203:34.e1-8.

Sarkar p, Bergman K, Fisk NM, O’Connor TG, Glover V. Ontogeny of foetal exposure to maternal cortisol using midtrimester amniotic fluid as a biomarker 2007 Clinical Endocrinology 66 (5), 636–640.

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