THE INFLUENCE OF STRESS DURING PREGNANCY ON YOUR BABYYou are here: Home> Articles> Stress and pregnancy
This text is an excerpt from my course "Relaxation techniques and stress management"
CONSEQUENCES OF STRESS IN PREGNANCY
The studies on the influence of stress on pregnancy have shown that, however it does not affect the development in short-term, prolonged periods of strong stress can increase the risk of premature birth and pregnancy complications.
Moreover, chronic stress in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage as adrenaline triggers uterine contractions. .
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It has also been noticed that children born to mothers who were subject to prolonged stress during pregnancy have lower birth weights. This is probably because the stress hormones cause vasoconstriction and therefore restrict the flow of nutrients and oxygen through the placenta to the embryo.
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It is thought that a lot of negative consequences that stress has on health arise not due to stress itself but because of inefficient methods of dealing with it.
Common reactions to stress, unfortunately even in pregnant women are smoking cigarettes, abusing caffeine, drinking alcohol, skipping meals and unhealthy diet (for example eating fast foods). These behaviours escalate the psychological tensions instead of relieving them and good, healthy habits are very important for both the mother and the child.
The consequences of a stressful pregnancy for the emotional state of the childThe genetic differences present in children of distressed mothers make them more susceptible to stress. As a result, they react to a stressful stimulus much faster, mentally and hormonally than their peers.
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Moreover, such children show a tendency towards taking impulsive actions and are more prone to experience emotional problems. Earlier studies have shown that there is a greater probability of developing depression in children whose parents were victims of domestic violence.
As you can see, it is very important for you before pregnancy and during pregnancy to apply relaxation techniques regularly.
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THE BODY REACTION TO STRESS – HOW IT WORKSThe cortex, stimulated by stressful factors sends appropriate signals to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, in turn sends to a “command” to the anterior pituitary ” to release ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) to the bloodstream.
This hormone stimulates secretion of corticosteroids from the adrenal cortex. They regulate the process of glucose release to the bloodstream, the water-electrolyte balance and the metabolic rate.
Moreover, hypothalamus stimulates the adrenal cortex to release adrenaline and noradrenaline. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and glucose levels in the bloodstream.
It has to be emphasised that ACTH secretion is under control by both the endocrine and the nervous system.
An important observation is that stress is intensified when the animal has no way of counteracting it. Rats that had no possibility to escape from an experimentally applied electric shock had a worse response to stress and, as a consequence, a higher rate of psychosomatic symptoms.
Apart from that, Locke et al. (1984) have concluded that stress decreases the activity of K cells (specify?). Chronic stress can in turn lead to a fall in production of T-lymphocytes and macrophages so it can generally decrease immunity. (Ironson, 1997; Irvin, 1990; Irvin 1990b; 1994; Linn, 1981). Excessively experienced stress can also impair the DNA repair processes (Kiecolt-Glaser, 1985).