Bad for the offspring
> Pregnancy stress could negatively impact a baby’s health for years
support the growth and survival of brain neurons, decreased. The team also observed that the offspring of stressed mothers, even though they were never stressed after birth, fared worse in tests which assessed anxiety and cognitive health, and had a lower ability to learn than female offspring of mice who were not exposed to stress during pregnancy. Although the researchers also found interesting changes in the male offspring, the team is still working on that part of the study. Commenting on what caused the health problems, lead researcher Tamar Gur said: “We already understand that prenatal stress can be bad for one’s offspring, but the mystery is how.
“More and more, doctors and researchers are understanding that naturally-occurring bacteria are not just a silent presence in our body, but that they contribute to our health.”
Gur added that microbes from a mother’s gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts are the first to colonise in a developing foetus and in newborns.
And as Gur and her colleagues found significant microbial changes to the placentas of the female offspring of stressed mice, these changes in microbes could have had an important influence on health, even before birth.
Gur also stressed that the findings do not mean that mothers are to blame for any mental illness in their children.
Instead, the findings should be used as an opportunity to talk more about the importance of mental health, both in general and during pregnancy.
“As a psychiatrist who treats pregnant women, if you’re stressed or anxious, I think pregnancy is a prime time for intervention,” said Gur.
“And what’s good for the mother is also good for the baby.” – AFP