November Adoption Awareness Month – Day Thirteen

13 Nov

M” is for Mothers and Prenatal Maternal Stress…

I read a recent report titled “Prenatal Maternal Stress” from The Douglas Institute in Quebec which discusses how chronic stress not only impacts the expectant mother but the fetus as well.  Go and read it and then come back here. 

In fact, stress during pregnancy may result in lasting effects on the infant’s health status, the development and function of the infant’s immune system; and the cognitive development of the infant.

The type of stress discussed in this article is objective stress or chronic stress, like the type of stress a mother would be under when she has no resources to take care of her baby.  When others are telling her she needs to do the right thing and choose adoption.  When she is being told she is not good enough or cannot provide the life her baby deserves.  When she is counseled that adoption is the ONLY loving option.

Understanding how prenatal maternal stress can affect a developing fetus requires some knowledge about the biology behind the stress response. Response to stress involves a number of organs and systems within the body; from the brain to specialized organs, such the adrenal glands, which are adjacent to the kidneys.The process begins with a stressor stimulating the brain, which evaluates the threat and processes it into an appropriate response, physiological and behavioural. This results in the secretion of corticoids, such as cortisol, and glucocorticoids from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream. The corticoids are molecules, which trigger the “flight or fight” response of an individual to stress

Cortisol is the link between prenatal stress and infant outcomes. Prenatal maternal stress is associated with increased levels of cortisol in the mother. It is believed that this molecule has a direct effect on the fetus. Moreover, because a linear relationship exists between maternal and fetal cortisol levels, relatively small increases in maternal cortisol are equivalent to relatively large increases in fetal cortisol.

Mom tells me that I have always worried since I was a small child and if you look at the first six months in my new home my stress levels were through the roof, I could not be consoled.  Neither mom or dad were worriers, they took each day as it came and assumed things would work out – nurture failed to overcome my worrier status.  Even today, I stress.  I stress over everything, it takes an immense effort to stop worrying and once I am not consciously focusing on ‘not stressing’ the worries come back.  Apparently my mother was a worrier but to what degree I will never know.  Yet there is that genetic tie to my worrying but was that tendency enhanced in me while I was still in the womb?  Did epigenetics (when the environment modifies the genes) play an additional role during the time after my mother surrendered me and when I went to live with mom and dad? 

What will science say about adoptees from domestic infant adoptions in the future if we impacted in so many different ways by the chronic stress our mothers were under while we were in the womb?  Will domestic infant adoption still be considered a good solution?

What will it say about the best interests of the child if that child is impacted physically, mentally, cognitively because of stress of their mothers feeling they have no choice but to place their babies for adoption?

I think it is time for society to reconsider the benefits of adoption for the child…and move to only when all efforts at family preservation have been exhausted.  Lets start helping and building up the mothers support system instead of tearing it down piece by piece until she feels she has no other choice.

Disclaimer…yes, some mothers undoubtedly were not stressed by the thought of surrendering their baby to adoption…sigh…I hate disclaimers…   
1 Comment

Posted by on November 13, 2010 in Ethics, Uncategorized


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One response to “November Adoption Awareness Month – Day Thirteen

  1. Von

    November 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Absolutely agee, we do so little in some countries to actively support women and girls in making realistic choices for the present and for the future.
    I can certainly vouch for the effects of a mother’s stress on the immune system and on health.Additionally when you put an adoptee in a stressful situation for prolonged periods of time , the results are as you’d expect.For me personally, eczema, asthma,allergies,RA,food intolerances and I got off lightly compared with some.



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