Implications of stressed motherhood during pregnancy and its fallouts in the post natal developments
If a pregnant mother remains stressed, the baby at the time or after birth will have the following conditions:-
i) The baby will be some couple of hundred grams lesser in weight
ii) The birth of the baby may be a few days earlier than it should have been
iii) The cry of the baby will be more than usual and a bit fussy. The baby will be harder to sooth
iv) The circumference of the baby’s head will be a bit smaller
Although it is not 100 per cent to occur always, but if it happens, it is a matter of risk and concern.
When the baby grows as a child
A stressed pregnant mother may give birth to such a baby who will turn with following conditions when he or she becomes a child:
a) Conduct disorder: - the child may have difficulty in controlling his or her temper and indulge into fight. These types of children hardly obey rules.
b) These types of children find it difficult in concentrating and they act rather impulsively
c) The children of the stressed mother will be more depressed and anxious
All these problems are associated with the brain’s altered developments. Other than behavioral and emotional problems, the children of stressed mother may have many other problems.
In some cases the risks of schizophrenia and autism among the children are common phenomena. However more researches are on in this matter.
A few of the children from such pregnant mothers are found to be mixed handed. This means the children are neither left nor right handed, they can use either of the hand for their daily activities.
Some researches have proved that these children may have their fingerprints changed. But it is also the fact that 100 per cent children from the mothers with stress during pregnancies are not likely to be having the conditions as detailed above, because genetic make-up is the main factor to cause any or many of these conditions.
In case a child from this type of stressed mother becomes genetically vulnerable, it is the parents who are responsible for this situation.
What can be the helps?
Sensitive mothering, especially in the first year, can be the best help for these types of children. A mother in this stage has to be attuned and responsive to her child, so that she can develop the child rightly. However, it must be not too late, earlier is the better to manage the situation right in time, before the things get permanently changed.
The triple “F” factors (father, family & friends)
The partner of a pregnant woman has a greater role to play for being supportive and considerate. By this way both the mother and new born will be cared in the way they deserve. If a husband is caring enough to his pregnant wife, both the baby in the womb and the mother will be feeling healthy. The help to the carrying mother will be the simple things like sharing some works, talking and sharing about any worry she might have. The husband can accompany the pregnant wife to the anti-natal care centre and again to the post natal care centre after the birth of the baby for check-ups.
Other family members and friends also have some important roles to play. The reason is if a pregnant woman is confident of a support network at the time of her feeling down or stressed, she can not only easily manage the situation, but also alleviate the condition.
If the pregnant lady is a working person, the employer also needs to be considerate ,in addition to taking the step of ensuring their workloads to be as flexible and less demanding as possible. By this way the employer can reduce any type of new source of stress to the pregnant employee.
Epigenetics, its importance & its background
Epigenetics means ‘on top’ of genetics. It is very important to understand the basic biological changes which are important in the matters of fetal programming.
The changes in Epigenetics refer to DNA modifications, which take place without altering the underlying DNA sequence. It has the capacity of controlling the turning “off and on” a gene and the quantum of a message made. Each of the cells in our body has a DNA sequence; however different genes are turned off and on for making our different tissues like liver and muscle.
Changes in Epigenetics can also happen due to environment and that can lead to individual characteristic’s differences. A pregnant mother’s stress and diet can make changes in Epigenetics in the fetus. It has been found in the animal models that maternal licking and grooming are thickly related with the GR expression’s Epigenetic regulations.
In case the emotional environment is early, it can cause brain’s Epigenetic changes. The examples were taken from the animals like pups’ and rats’ studies. When these offspring were licked and groomed adequately by their mother, the offspring had lower stress responses and reduced anxiety during their adulthood. All these are due to Epigenetic changes taking place in the brain of the offspring, especially at the stress hormone control’s receptor. Same type of cortisol receptor’s Epigenetics modifications were identified in the rat’s brain whose mothers were stressed during their pregnancies.
While studying human beings, it has been found that child abuse alters brain’s epigenetic profile. The revelations also came in front when it was found that because of the violence of the partner maternal prenatal stress causes epigenetic changes in the same cortisol receptor’s DNA and also in the blood of the adolescent children.
The epigenetic changes of this type can travel down to the next generation from either of the parents. Surprisingly, these factors can pass through multiple generations, just like grandparents to grandchildren. This proves the fact that acquired characteristics are inherited in many cases. However, it is important to note that some epigenetic changes can last temporarily and some last for lifetime. Many researches are going on to find the way of reversing the system of epigenetic changes.
Importance of placenta in the making of fetal brain
Different researches have proved that the role of a placenta is very much important in the filtering of materials from mother to the fetus. In case a mother is emotionally stressed, the filtering capacity of this placenta may get changed. In case the mother is more stressed, the extra amount of stress hormone cortisol is likely to pass through, which in turn may alter the fetal brain’s development. An enzyme called 11β-HSD2, breaks down the crystals.
The working of the placental enzyme 11β-HSD2
In case the mother remains stressed, lesser amount of enzyme will be produced in the placenta. Lesser enzyme production leads to more cortisol get filtered through that affected fetal brain developments. This is evidenced from both the animal and human models. Further evidence has proved that if the cortisol level in the womb is higher, it can alter the fetal brain’s development.
Connection between the Placenta and the Fetal Brain
Placenta’s primary function is maintaining adequate supply of nutrients to fetus. These nutrients are very essential for the fetus brain development. A fetal brain develops & grows very rapidly in the entire gestational period.
Inside a human brain
A neural tube with the capacity of 3 mm will grow into a whole brain which has 100 trillion connections and 100 billion neurons. Productions of new neurons i.e. proliferations start at the 5th week of pregnancy and continue through 18 months of pregnancy.
Increase of neurons are Precursor cells dependent, which travels to the specific brain areas and are capable of performing many specialized functions.
The connections between the neurons with each other form new neurons. This is known as synaptogenesis.
During the pre-natal stage, excess production of neurons takes place. The unused neurons are removed by the pruning process. The process continues till the start of puberty of a human life.
Of course, according to the latest researches, new brain cells are also born during adulthood, which is known as adult neurogenesis. But the greatest growth of brain is experienced in the womb only.