A study at the University of Zurich shows how stressful pregnancy also harms the fetus. Long periods of maternal stress change the metabolism in the placenta, affecting the growth of the fetus. The phenomenon increases the risk that the child develops cognitive and behavioral deficits by growing.
When it is under pressure, the human body releases hormones that serve to handle the situation. One of these is the release hormone of corticotropin, which causes an increase in cortisol stress hormone. In pregnancy, these hormones partially overcome the placental barrier and reach the fetus.
Increasing stress hormones accelerates fetal development. The purpose is to allow the baby to be born first and to give him more chance of survival, even if premature. A useful mechanism in nature, however, does little apply to modern life and has many negative consequences. Rapid growth hinders the proper development of organs. How long does stress need to last, though?
The researchers examined 34 healthy pregnant women, subjected to prenatal screening tests for diagnostic purposes. The situation may be stressful for many pregnant women, thus increasing cortisol secretion. Scientists compared the levels of hormone in maternal saliva and those in amniotic fluid. They found that there was no connection.
To examine the effects of prolonged stress, the team monitored a group of women throughout pregnancy. The puppies completed questionnaires about their psycho-physical condition. The researchers compared the results of the questionnaires, the corticotropin release hormone levels in the mother and those in the fetus. They have thus shown a correlation between the data.
The implications of stress on the fetus are still unclear, even though different negative effects are known. It is therefore important that future mothers receive constant collaboration and support, even by a specialist, if needed.