Stress during pregnancy can damage fetal brain, study finds

Depression, anxiety and increased stress during pregnancy can damage the fetal brain and negatively impact a child’s cognitive development, a recent study has found.

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Not the first on the subject, this study conducted by Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC highlights the importance of mental health services for pregnant women. However, this is the first time that we have been able to demonstrate that psychological distress can alter the brain of the fetus, CTV News said in an article.

Nearly a quarter of pregnant women experience stress-related symptoms, making it one of the most common problems during pregnancy. Women in good health and with a high socioeconomic status can also be affected by it.

“What is clear is that early interventions could help mothers reduce their stress, which can have a positive impact on their symptoms and therefore on their baby long after birth,” explained the lead author of study, Catherine Limperopoulos who is head and director of the Brain Development Institute at Children’s National Hospital.

In order to complete this study, the researchers first measured maternal psychological distress between weeks 24 and 40. Then, an infant neurodevelopmental test was performed at 18 months. At the end of the research, they discovered changes in the fetal brain that could explain certain developmental problems observed after birth, such as social-emotional problems, self-regulation and difficulty in forming positive relationships.

“Furthermore, we found that prenatal maternal stress, although not reaching the severity of a mental disorder, was associated with reduced infant cognitive performance,” the study also read. .

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