Monday, 4 February 2008

Why might maternal stress affect your unborn baby?

The answer says UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown, who specialises in pre-conceptual care, fertility and pregnancy is the communication of the blood of the mother and your baby via the umbilical cord.

A baby gets both the good (e.g. nutrients and oxygen) and the bad from the mother’s blood. The bad components of the blood can include alcohol, nicotine, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and stress chemicals, such as cortisol and noradrenaline.

Animal and human studies appear to indicate that stress leads to depression. In other words, chronic stress in the mother's womb (in utero) or early deprivation (separation from the mother by putting a baby into another room and leaving them to cry) can predispose a person to developing clinical depression in later life. Furthermore, stress hormones can actually decrease brain connections and even the number of brain cells in crucial areas, such as the limbic system, which are in part responsible for emotion, behaviour and long-term memory. This loss of brain connections and cells can then lead to further maladaptive (inadequate adjustment) responses to stress. In other words, the stress response is inappropriate and a person may not learn as easily to cope with stressors (which are normal and are part and parcel of growing up) and successfully adapt to them.

Making the correct food choices can also reduce the amount of stress you and your baby will experience says UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown, as it provides you with the correct nutrients to deal with stress more effectively. For example, many people become more irritable and feel low or depressed as a result of having a blood sugar imbalance. Further, an estimated 1 in 10 mothers experience some form of post-natal depression and how you feel directly impacts on how your baby may feel. This can be helped or possibly avoided by making the best dietary choices for you. This is especially important when you are about to have a baby. I know from experience that sleep deprivation is a huge stressor!

To find out more about Nutritional support during or before your pregnancy, contact UrBod Nutritionist Melody Mackeown Dip.ION (mBANT), specialist in pre-conceptual care, fertility and pregnancy care in the city of London, EC2. I have also written a free e-book on how you can improve your diet during your pregnancy, which can be obtained by clicking on my link.