The negative effects of stress in pregnancy

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Philippe Gloaguen
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Stress in pregnancy

There are more and more studies and researches that warn about the dangers of stress in pregnancy. In fact, it is now established that very intense emotional stress, especially if experienced by the expectant mother in the first weeks of gestation, can seriously jeopardize the well-being of the fetus.





While in the past it was believed that the maternal-fetal relationship if it is structured only after the maturation of the central nervous system, that is, at the end of pregnancy, today the possibility of this happening very early is increasingly considered.

In fact, it seems that in the very early stages of pregnancy it is stress may have negative effects on the central nervous system of the fetus.

Read also: Development of the embryo

Stress and miscarriage

Stress, particularly emotional stress, appears to increase the risk of miscarriage nearly three times. The data of some researches attribute to maternal stress the responsibility for most of the spontaneous abortions that occur in the very first period of gestation without other obvious reasons.



For example, numerous cases have emerged of women who aborted in the first three months of pregnancy following the death of a child.

It is not yet completely clear why this happens and studies in the medical scientific field are still trying to answer this question. It seems that the cause is directly attributable to the increase in the level of the stress hormone, the cortisol, which appears to adversely affect fetal development.

Experts speculate that the raising of the cortisol levels it is used to signal a risk condition for the organism, therefore it constitutes a sort of alarm bell that indicates a precarious health condition of the pregnant woman. In this perspective, spontaneous abortion represents one defense that the body puts in place to counteract a pregnancy that in a precarious health condition would put the woman herself at risk.

It is also possible that a series of triggers in the mother's organism as a response to stress chemical changes, especially at the level of the immune and inflammatory system, capable of causing damage to the fetus in the early stages of its brain development.

Stress and brain development

In addition to spontaneous abortion, stress is associated with other risks that can compromise a pregnancy. According to the data emerging from a study conducted on over one million newborns in Northern Europe, there is a relationship between maternal stress and some diseases that the baby can develop after birth. The study showed that extreme emotional distress experienced during pregnancy, such as the death of a relative, would predispose the baby to developing schizophrenia.



Read also: Tips against stress in pregnancy

But stress can also cause premature births and lead to low birth weight for babies. It cannot be ruled out among other things that a minor stress experienced in the first stage of pregnancy, like it daily stress deriving for example from a work particularly demanding, it can in any case compromise the health of the fetus in a more or less serious way.

During pregnancy it is therefore important that women try to avoid, as far as possible, all situations that can cause anxiety and stress. This is not always easy, especially considering that more and more women carry on their pregnancy by continuing to take care of work and a thousand other commitments. In these cases it is useful to try to reduce stress to avoid risks and live the wait peacefully.

Music in pregnancy

A study conducted by researchers fromTaiwan University has identified music as an effective anti-stress tool. The results of the study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, assign music a particularly important role in the management of prenatal stress which affects an ever increasing percentage of pregnant women. The data that emerged showed a notable decrease in cortisol levels in women who listen relaxing music, in particular classical music, lullabies, the sounds of nature and music for children, for at least thirty minutes a day. An effect has also been highlighted in which a reduction in anxiety and depressive states is noted.

Researchers explain that the positive effect of music, and its relaxing power, can be attributed to sensory stimuli that affect the nervous system and hormones, and that soothe the physiological response to daily stress.

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