Wednesday, May 04, 2005

crazy moms programming stress into newborn babes

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scientists are clever people. a study of 38 women who experienced post traumatic stress disorder after the 9/11 attacks while they were still pregnant may have passed on a bit of the unhealth onto their children. the chemical tested in both mothers and children was cortisol - a chemical produced in response to stress, which increases blood pressure and blood glucose. severe stress, however, has the opposite effect, it causes the cortisol level to fall instead of rise, since so much of it is being used up taking care of the stressed out parent.

previous studies have shown the stressed out parents have passed their stress onto children, yet this is usually considered psychological, the parents passing it on to their children by raising the child and recounting stories, not by some kind of embryonic emotional/chemical absorbtion. this new study tested babies after only a year of life, and suggests that the stressed women may have actually passed it on in the womb.

"Because the babies were about a year old at the time of testing, this suggests the trauma effect transfer may have to do with very early parent-child attachments, cortisol 'programming' in the womb, or shared genetic susceptibility," says Jonathan Seckl, of the University of Edinburgh.

however, the reduced cortisol levels in the babies were seen especially in women that were in their third trimester of their pregnancy, which hints at it being more biological than early psychological.

if emotions can pass on certain effects to children in the womb, healthy maternity may one day be seen as more than just eating healthy, avoiding cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, but may have just as much to do with the emotional landscape of the parent during pregnancy.

full article at new scientist

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