The stress felt by the mother during pregnancy; It can also affect a child’s mental development, physical health and personality structure. It may even increase a child’s susceptibility to chronic diseases later in life. For this reason, mothers should provide as much peaceful and stress-free environment as possible during pregnancy and the biggest task falls on the husband / wife and family. From Memorial Health Group Medstar Topkular Hospital, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Op. Dr. Müjde Şekeroğlu provides information on the effects of stress felt by pregnant mothers on the child during pregnancy.
Stress directly affects the fetus.
The source of stress during pregnancy is different. It can be an unavoidable cause of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, storms or wars and terrorism; Negative human relationships at home or at work can also lead to domestic violence. Whatever the reason, stress is a threat to the body’s balance and creates a variety of structural, functional, and behavioral responses to the body’s return to its original state. As a result, the mental and physical health of the developing child is adversely affected. In addition to negatively affecting brain development; It can lead to premature birth, slow growth of the baby, low birth weight and lag around the baby’s head.
Stress affects mother and baby in two ways.
Studies conducted on babies exposed to fetal stress have shown that they are more prone to future mental health problems and behavioral disorders. Stress during the prenatal period affects maternal and child health in two different ways. First, the body is directly affected by an increase in the secretion of stress hormones. Second, unconscious behaviors such as substance use and stress symptoms in mothers who do not attend pregnancy check-ups indirectly affect maternal and child health.
The stress felt by the fetus may in the future lead to the following table:
- Decreased intellectual activity and problem solving ability
- Delayed language acquisition
- Low IQ score
- Anxiety disorder
- Schizophrenia sensitivity
If stress is felt between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy, the effects can be even greater. Increased stress hormones in the mother can reduce blood flow through the placenta and deplete oxygen. Under normal circumstances, the placenta reduces the transmission of stress hormones from mother to baby, but in the case of long-term stress, the amount of hormones transferred to the baby increases due to a decrease in placental enzymes that neutralize stress hormones. . Increased stress hormones cause structural changes in the baby’s brain and increase the response to stress at an advanced stage, increasing the susceptibility of individuals to monopathological disorders.
Prenatal stress increases the susceptibility to chronic disease in later life. The epigenetic mechanism, that is, the environmental conditions that determine which genes will be active, affects a person’s appearance and health. Unhealthy gene activation can result in exposure to high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the baby’s womb. For example, a pregnant mother is more likely to be obese during a famine. This is because their genes work in such a way that they are deficient in the external environment and they tend to store fat. High levels of stress hormones also disrupt healthy intestinal flora, negatively affecting the immune system. Recently, studies have shown that changes in the telomere length of cord blood leukocytes are associated with pregnancy-specific stress. Studies have shown that prenatal stress is related to the length of small telomeres exposed to exposure. It has been confirmed by research that telomere shortening plays a universal role in reducing the life of human cells and it also plays a role in aging. We will be; The stress that is felt in the womb makes the body more vulnerable to stress during adulthood.
Especially since the child of a pregnant mother, who is under stress due to domestic violence and lack of communication, is likely to have a difficult personality formation in the future, it can be a source of stress for her family and society. .
The process of pregnancy and birth affects childhood and adolescence, adult behavior and mental processes, personality formation, ways of dealing with life and events, all of our relationships, in short, all of human history. For this reason, if mothers are provided as peaceful and stress-free environment as possible during pregnancy, positive results can be obtained in terms of individual and public health.