A new paper from University of Pennsylvania elucidates exactly how an unborn baby’s brain is affected by maternal stress. The importance of reducing stress during pregnancy is hardly new news, I’ve been writing about it for 25 years, the research dates back even further. But this latest work shows that stress causes reduction in levels of a particular protein that is important for the baby’s brain development.
The paper was published in March 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and its authors state "Maternal stress is a key risk factor for neuro-developmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism." This is particularly the case for male offspring and if the exposure to stress occurs in the first trimester. Which of course raises the importance or reducing your stress levels before you get pregnant! That first trimester can be over before you realise it and effective stress-reduction doesn’t happen overnight.
The key thing is not to let stress drag you down because there’s one certainty - the more stressed you become, the less able you are to deal with it. This is especially true if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while and because most of the things that you turn to in stressful situations like alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and high-sugar snacks and drinks not only exacerbate the problem, but are now on the “must avoid” list. Reducing stress and worry is one of the the greatest gifts you can give your unborn baby. Becoming that Zen Mum will pay long-term dividends. Relax and chill out. Get cracking on whatever stress-reduction methods you can muster. Healthy Parents, Healthy Baby has lots of ideas and prospective Dads will benefit too.