Infants’ Brain Development Hinders Under Stressed Pregnancy

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Stressed Pregnancy

Stressed Pregnancy is the most dangerous and cause of ill health may be physical or mental health in a person. And, if we talk about pregnant women then it is not at all healthy. Recently it has come to notice that pregnant women if is under stress then it affects the infant’s brain development. Some researchers claimed that prolonged assault of severe stress (like a death in the family, losing a job, etc.) can impact a pregnancy negatively, causing complications like premature birth of the baby, low birth weight, and even sleep and behavioral disorders in young children.

Some studies have claimed that the effects of chronic stress on a foetus are minimal, but an expectant mom tends to suffer much more than her baby does like (Chronic stress can cause a number of physical symptoms like sleep problems, digestive issues, headaches, muscle tension, and high blood pressure, etc.)

Read More: How To Handle Emotional Stress During Pregnancy

Most expecting women to keep an understanding that it is important to remain healthy during pregnancy. They are also aware that they ought to eat healthily, take vitamins, exercise and avoid smoking and excess alcohol. But amongst all one of the main reasons to have a healthy pregnancy and proper prenatal care is that, if a mother is exposed to something harmful, her baby will also be exposed to and affected by it.

A developing baby is extremely susceptible to harmful things due to its size and the massive fetal development undergoing in the womb. Organs are forming, the heart starts beating, arms, legs, fingers, and toes grow, reproductive organs develop and, at any point, harmful external factors could have a negative influence.

Recently, researchers from Harvard and Mt Sinai observed that both environmental chemicals and environmental stress can suspend the development of a fetus’ brain and negatively impact the baby’s long-term health, even tends to develop the risk of autism spectrum disorders.

The Effects of Stress in Early Pregnancy

A 2015 study published in Endocrinology had revealed that t stress in the first trimester of pregnancy can actually affect the microbes that inhabit in an expectant mother’s vagina. These microbes later get transferred to the newborn during vaginal birth, which results in bringing the changes to the little baby’s gut microbiome and brain development. This then affects the microbes of the infant’s immune system and metabolism. Scientists claimed that the altered gut microbiota is connected to a greater risk of neurodevelopment disorders, including autism and schizophrenia.

These effects explained above were observed in a University of Pennsylvania lab in pregnant mice, which had to tolerate such stressors as unfamiliar noises, predator odors, and being calm. This all takes place during early gestation, or in the first trimester.

Environmental chemical exposure can also be the result of diverse conditions including:  workplace conditions (where one is exposed to a high level of chemicals on a daily basis), living near farmland (where pesticides are sprayed), exposure to high traffic areas, or even the cumulative effects of everyday common chemicals in the household. All the above factors affect the brain development of the infant, just like the stress does it.

Stressed pregnancy might hinder infants’ brain development

In one of the studies, researchers studied the relationship between maternal stress and brain development in 251 premature kids. Researchers observed the faulty development of a white matter tract, the uncinate fasciculus, in babies whose mothers were experiencing more stress in the prenatal period.

The above studies were published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry. The mothers were hypothetically asked to complete a questionnaire that was related to their experiences of stressful events, like moving house or taking an exam, experiencing demise, separation or divorce, etc.

The weight of the severity of stress was calculated based on the strength of stressors they experienced as well as how hard those stressors were. Through which they calculated its relation to the baby’s brain.

Researchers for thorough understanding used a medical imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging which was specifically developed to look at the structure of the baby’s white matter. It was found that in the mums that were more stressed during pregnancy and the period before birth, the white matter was altered in the babies said by lead researcher Alexandra Lautarescu from King’s College London.

Stress and Baby Sleep Problems

The studies were published in the journal Early Human Development, women who underwent anxiety or depressed during pregnancy found approximately 40 % chances to have babies who develop sleep problems than women who were normal. The basic reason is the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which floods the body when one feels excess stress.

This chemical then crosses the placenta, affecting the part of the brain that regulates a child’s sleep-wake cycles said by study author Thomas O’Connor, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Centre. It is known that child sleep is often an important measure of healthy development, so it’s crucial that women, in the beginning, should pay attention to avoid high-stress levels, which can ultimately trigger chronic anxiety and depression and ultimately the unhealthy baby.

How to keep a child’s developing brain healthy

Pregnant mothers who face ‘toxic’ environmental, social or emotional situations, though could not avoid the external environment but can help their unborn babies by following these preventive measures-

  • During pregnancy take care of the proper diet, the better the baby gets nourished the better will be the growing brain. Adding good quantity of omegas 6 and 7, Vitamin E and iron during pregnancy to an already healthy diet is ideal.
  • One can have a regular practice of Exercise, meditation and prenatal yoga are all effective and healthy ways to deal with stress that will benefit both mother and baby.
  • Maintain hygienic conditions. It is impossible to avoid all chemicals but there are plenty of easy changes one can implement in the daily routine to reduce exposure to serious chemicals such as taking shoes off when indoors, dusting often, choosing glass over plastic, frequently washing hands with a gentle, non-toxic hand wash and eating organic produce, protein, and high-quality dairy products.
  • Once the baby is born it is really important to encourage them from day one. As many of their vital brain cell connections are formed during the prenatal period, the majority of their neural development/ connections responsible for language, hearing, movement, and learning will be formed in the first three months of life and beyond.
  • The most important element is to have a strong relationship with the baby. Be attentive to their signal, however basic they might seem in the first few months, and remember that one cannot spoil an infant with too much attention. Excess crying in an infant leads to chronic stress and anxiety in their little bodies which, just as is the case with chronic stress in a pregnant woman, can result in hormonal responses that can interfere with the baby’s neural development.
  • Skin to skin contact has a powerful influence on a child’s physical and intellectual development. Breastfeeding and cuddle should always be encouraged by both mom and dad. Even allowing the baby to take a nap shirtless on top of a shirtless mom or dad is very beneficial during the first weeks of life.
  • Baby carrying in slings and carriers is another wonderful way to help bond with baby and to help develop his/her brain. Infants who are carried more tend to cry less and can use their energy to observe, interact with the environment and learn. Just by holding and responding to your baby helps them to form more brain cell connections.
  • Talking, singing and reading to the baby is another fun way to help their developing brain. Give them an opportunity to ‘respond’, slow down the pronunciation of some words, use sweet tones, sing silly songs and exaggerate facial expressions in order to teach the baby how to listen and eventually speak.
  • It is safe to say that most moms want to create an optimal environment for their kids’ development.  While some circumstances might be out of their control, it is empowering to know that the decisions one makes during pregnancy and in the first months of life can help the baby to develop into a healthy and happy child.

“Take Extra Preventive Measures To Keep The Child Growing In Healthy Atmosphere As Today’s Child Is Tomorrow’s Future”

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