How do you handle stress?

10 Jun

I have had this post brewing in my mind and in several drafts but it never seemed right – probably still isn’t right and will be dismissed, picked apart, denied, whatever.  Take it or leave it, but it is what I believe.  I over-react to everything.  I have been told literally hundreds of times (since I was small to just the other night) that I worry too much, am too stressed out, and need to relax.  That I need to work on my anxiety levels.  I can’t “not stress” despite trying every trick in the book.  We are all told stress is bad for you.  I know that genetics and evironment also play a role in who we are, and how we handle things, but I do believe the stress in the womb and then separation can impact us in ways we are just now starting to understand.

I think unplanned pregnancy is one of the most stressful times of your life, especially if you are not in a secure stable place in your life.  Add on the stress of making the decision to surrender your child solely due to financial, societal pressure/requirement, violent partner, whatever reason or version of events that lead to adoption, that you wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.  That stress impacts the baby.  When a mother is stressed, the hormones released hit the developing baby.  From the article last updated December 2010:

Prenatal maternal stress

How is stress communicated from mom to fetus?

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.

What is the impact on the developing baby who is being nurtured by someone with objective or chronic stress day in and day out throughout pregnancy? (from the link above)

When is a fetus most susceptible to prenatal maternal stress?

Timing is everything, especially for the effects of prenatal maternal stress (PNMS). New research findings show that the first two trimesters are the most sensitive to prenatal stress. Two periods are especially crucial :

■At week 10, the embryo becomes a fetus and it begins to move. The vital organs now have a solid foundation. During this time, the brain will produce almost 250,000 new neurons every minute. This is called neurogenesis

■During weeks 24 and 30, nerve cell connections are occurring. Guided by chemical signals, nerve processes seek out their target and establish contact. Communication between neurons begins. At birth, there are an excess of nerve connections, those that are not used will degenerate. This is called synaptogenesis

Exposure to extreme stress during these critical periods of pregnancy will influence which developing structures are affected and therefore determine the physical, cognitive or behavioral outcome.

July 2011 comes this article from the BBC on German research…

 Mum’s stress is passed to baby in the womb

A mother’s stress can spread to her baby in the womb and may cause a lasting effect, German researchers propose.

They have seen that a receptor for stress hormones appears to undergo a biological change in the unborn child if the mother is highly stressed, for example, because of a violent partner.

And this change may leave the child less able to handle stress themselves.

(go read the rest because it is important and the quote above does not even cover the worst part…)

The above is one of the reasons why I do not like domestic voluntary infant adoption when practiced as the first option – not the last option. Stress hormones, changes and outcomes is an area of intense scrutiny by scientists, although much of the research is conducted on rats like this one see the number of references to get an idea of volume of the research happening.

Yet they have and are conducting studies and research on expectant mothers and children, but doing it on those who were part of natural disasters like the article (first link above) discussing Prenatal maternal stress.  That research was on expectant mothers during the Ice Storms in Quebec in January 1998 which saw some without electricity for 6 weeks – it is now being expanded to research the impact of other natural disasters. (snippets below […] indicates portions missing)

Impact of prenatal stress on mothers-to-be and their fetuses

A unique opportunity for PNMS research

“This study is the first of its kind,” stated Suzanne King. “Thanks to our colleague in Australia, Sue Kildea, PhD, we have access to samples of placentas, umbilical cords and blood from births that occurred during a natural disaster. No one has ever had access to this kind of biometric data. We now need to analyze this information to understand the mechanisms through which PNMS can affect fetuses. This major grant is essential to the advancement of our research, as the process we are embarking upon will be long and require a huge investment.”

Sue Kildae oversees more than 400 midwives at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, which was at the epicentre of the Australian floods. Her team was already following about one hundred pregnant women in a study on prenatal care when the 2011 catastrophe hit. She recruited 200 more mothers for QF2011 as the disaster was unfolding. Another collaborator of Suzanne King’s is American researcher Michael O’Hara, who is coordinating a study in Iowa that follows 300 pregnant women and their children, about one hundred of whom had been recruited before the flooding in Iowa in June 2008.

[…] Project Ice Storm: an innovative and groundbreaking project

Launched in 1998 during the Montreal ice storm, the work of Suzanne King has led to major advances in our understanding of how prenatal stress affects child development. “We have found that PNMS has long-term effects on children’s cognitive, behavioural, motor and physical development,” explained Suzanne King. “Given that minor problems persist in children who were born in the context of a moderate disaster such as the ice storm, we suspect that these symptoms could be much worse in the case of a tsunami or an earthquake like the one in Haiti.” […]

We really need to understand that it isn’t just smoking, drinking, drugs taken/ingested during pregnancy that impact babies – stress impacts them as well and in ways they never imagined.

Shouldn’t we as society, and especially those who hold themselves out as looking at the best interests of the mother and child – who operate CPC’s and Christian Adoption Agencies etc. be first and foremost providing services that actively promote parenting?  That instead of offering adoption as a good or better solution to unplanned pregnancy, that they sit down and say “we have found the resources that will allow you and the baby to thrive” and start there, instead of starting with the end goal being adoption?  Why not start with  finding out what the expectant mother needs and then providing a plan that includes whatever is needed regarding housing, food, medical, daycare resources, and turn the current scenario around to “we offer scholarships to those who parent” (instead of surrender)?  Isn’t that the best solution for the baby?  A solution that reduces that risk to the baby growing in the womb that will impact that child in different ways throughout life?

(don’t forget to include all the disclaimers that go without saying)…


Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Adoption, biological child, Ethics


Tags: , , , , ,

21 responses to “How do you handle stress?

  1. eagoodlifeon

    June 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Absolutely!Thanks for a very useful post and if I may I will email it and also repost.Hope that’s ok.You’ll get no criticism,denial or whatever from this adoptee!


    • TAO

      June 11, 2012 at 12:07 am

      Glad you agree – of course feel free…have a great Monday!


  2. eagoodlife

    June 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von.


  3. wsbirthmom

    June 11, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Your ‘process’, is exactly what I have been attempting to do….I have a page dedicated to it. Feeling as if you have no other choice, and no one actually sits you down to try to help you find what it is that you feel that you are missing, doesn’t really mean you actually ‘choose’… really means, you have no choice. I hope it’s ok for me to post the page here. If not, I apologize. Great blog post.
    I’ve been able to help 18 women take a seat, breathe and analyze their situation and find the resources that they felt they were lacking to parent their child/children. Here is one way I reach them:


    • TAO

      June 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Ws – of course it is okay to post your page here! I wish there was an organized effort by many groups to find resources, mentors, support, a hand-up for lack of a better word for any mother who faces this unthinkable choice. Adoption has it’s place but not as a first choice for many who only need the hand-up and then go that route solely because it is the only choice.

      Thanks – facebook is a good idea.


  4. Fran Whelan

    June 11, 2012 at 6:15 am

    This explains so much.


    • TAO

      June 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Fran! I take it you are like me in over stressing over just about anything, worrying about everything…


      • Fran Whelan

        July 27, 2012 at 8:00 am

        Hi there again. Yes, I’ve had two breakdowns in my life, I’ve never worked in the same job for more than 2 years because I’m terrified of being ‘found out’, I’ve been taking anti depressants for 4 years (which coincides with my return to work after 13 years of child rearing almost totally depression free – I managed to be employed for 3 of those years but got made redundant and ended up going right back to square one 😦 ) I can’t hold parties or sleep overs for my kids, I tried to arrange a day out for my OH and I, and was ill for the following 2 weeks. I am currently waiting for an assessment for my entitlement to benefits as working has such a bad effect on my health. That on it’s own has sent me down again…


        • TAO

          July 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

          Awe Fran – hugs to you. We only have a few very close friends over anymore because the build up and frantic over cleaning (think white glove treatment on door sills) that I “think” I must do to have guests. Pretty darn sad when I think about it because I do housework every day but every nook and cranny has to be spotless.

          If the meds are helping then keep up on them and if they aren’t ask your doctor for ideas because stress is bad. I have found situational tricks – deep breathing – when I lay down and my brain goes into over drive – music to stimulate the good hormones, etc. My biggest problem is when it is dull grey drizzly rain time of year – I tend to not get out and do suff…and we get months of that weather, I am thinking about trying one of those natural light lamps this coming winter – AND – my fruit/yogurt smoothies each day.

          Your picture looks like my dog…but mine has a patch of white on her chest. They are by far the best medicine.


  5. shannon2818

    June 14, 2012 at 1:09 am

    I would love to see more organizations focus on keeping the family together. I totally agree with you on this.


    • TAO

      June 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks Shannon – I do believe that people need to really delve into the impact and take the “want to be parents” completely out of the conversation and focus on what it can do to the one adopted. Society has blinders on thanks to the “adoption is wonderful think about all those who can’t become parents without adoption” meme.


  6. eagoodlife

    July 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    There are some simple helps for depression and stess – a walk every morning whether you want to or not, setting a goal, maybe a simple one at first, Bach Flower remedies especially helpful, excellent nutrition and not blaming yourself!


  7. butterfly923

    April 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    This totally explains everything. Thank you. I don’t feel as crazy about why I would stress over everything so much more than everyone else.


  8. Beth

    December 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    That does explain a lot. Is there a test we could take now to determine cortisol levels?
    Do you know what it might be called when you have these high levels of stress and worry, and to combat them you do the opposite?
    Like if I am stressed that a plane I am in will crash, so at first opportunity when I get back home, I learn to jump from it like a professional so I can live?
    Or like if I am afraid of getting lost in the wilderness, so I put myself in that situation after learning all I can of how to survive it?
    Then I keep doing all this stuff due to worrying I will forget how, or get out of shape for it or whatever. And keep learning more about it.
    This stress also makes me laugh. I think it’s medicine, like an auto drip or something, but I can’t help it sometimes. Stressful near overwhelming things often make me laugh when I should really not be laughing. But I can’t help it, I find something funny or ironic about it, and it really is funny! But I think it could be a habit or something learned that leads me to look for the funny.

    “I think unplanned pregnancy is one of the most stressful times of your life, especially if you are not in a secure stable place in your life.”
    I was extremely stressed during both of my pregnancies like that. I can see it in my kids, like it’s in me, but I don’t know if we are just like that, or if it’s the abundance of stress/cortisol.


    • TAO

      December 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Beth – it’s called being pro-active combined with a heaping dose of braveness and a dash of remembered fear. Sounds like a great recipe… For me when stress happened either self made or from actions of others that I can’t control but will be affected by – I used to lose weight. Now I have found ways to mitigate the stress levels when they rise – the automatic weight loss isn’t happening 😦 although that could be an age thing too.

      I think that hereditary tendencies play a big role, but like any life experience – that also shapes who we are…


      • Beth

        December 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

        I have both lost and gained weight due to stress over the years, which is no where near healthy. Too often, and I think due to stress, I forget to eat. How can you forget to eat???? It makes no sense to me. The last few years I’ve stayed about the same, regardless of my habits, so that’s good, especially since it’s chocolate, stress and cookie season.

        I always figured it was frantic control issues guiding my way. I don’t know how to diagnose it LOL but I know it’s probably not a good thing. I think a little of it may be a good thing, but the panicked abundance I have of it, I know can not be good.


    • eagoodlife

      December 24, 2013 at 4:53 am

      There is a test for cortisol levels , I had one only yesterday. I was surprised by the results. I don’t appear stressed but seem to be suffering low level stress which isn’t helpful.


  9. Beth

    December 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Some of “our” “kids” started a young life program here. It’s religious, so that scares me, but I know these particular people and they know me well, so I know in this chapter they are there to help young moms, not help take their babies for adoption. While it is about bringing faith in Jesus to the kids, in our group it’s not shoved down their throats. It’s more about caring for each other. Not sure about the other groups elsewhere, but I support our local Young Life group 1000%.
    I am a mentor to several young moms and dads thru this group, and have seen how much a mentor can help. I hope you all are lucky enough to have such a group in your area.


  10. TAO

    January 20, 2022 at 2:47 pm


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