“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.