Extensive research in the past years has shown that stressed mothers before and during pregnancy affect the temperament and behaviour of the future child. Under stress conditions, the brain releases cortisol, a hormone with certain neurotoxic properties that can seriously affect the development of baby’s brain.
Studies indicate that a constant exposure to stress and an increased cortisol level in the amniotic fluid is associated with a lower cognitive function in the child later on. This is why, after the birth, the children of emotionally abused mothers exhibit symptoms of mental trauma: they are easily scared, have nightmares, feel stressed by strong sounds and strident lights, avoid physical contact, cannot express their emotions of joy, etc.
As a result, stressed mothers tend to have more active foetuses, who are more likely to develop in irritable, hyperactive and anxious children. In fact, stress during the prenatal period would be responsible for just 75% of all epigenetic differences among babies. The same effects can be noticed in mice. This indicates that a hostile prenatal environment may induce or cause certain gene changes in babies.
To prevent the exposure to stress before and during pregnancy, you need to pay more attention to your body’s signals. This will alert you when it is necessary to take action and relax:
- rest each time you feel slightly tired; frequent breaks throughout the day
- adopt a balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients; they help strengthen the immune system and fight diseases
- do sport or moderate physical movements before and during pregnancy; it helps to fight complications and to release stress hormones in the body
- use prenatal massage; there are some contraindicated spa treatments but some of them can do wonders for your body especially during pregnancy
- simple relaxation methods (reading, listening to music, aromatherapy, etc.);
- avoid putting yourself in situations that increase stress and do not be close to people who irritate you (at work, at home or elsewhere, for example, if a crowded place puts psychological pressure on you, better give up and choose days and hours in which not so many people around)
- make sure you sleep well enough (lack of sleep can greatly increase the level of stress).
While researchers have just started to examine the underlying causes and effects of this association between the environment and the development of pregnancies, self-care is highly recommended. If you feel that you cannot cope with stress or challenges, do not hesitate to contact professionals who will be there to guide and support you.