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How Stressful Pregnancy Can Disturb Your Baby’s Brain?

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Bringing a new person into the world is not an easy task. Pregnant women worry about everything. Stressful pregnancy is not something unheard of. Are the foods you eat healthy enough? Is it safe to exercise? How will you juggle work and parenthood after the baby arrives? 

While some stress during pregnancy is normal, just as it is during other times of life, the situation can get worse if stress becomes severe and constant. It can adversely affect you and your baby.  

How do stress and anxiety during pregnancy affect the body?

Our body has a ‘flight mode,’ in situations of stress, for example, post traumatic stress disorder, which enables us automatically when we are stressed about anything. During this process, our body releases stress hormones like cortisol. These are the same hormones that surge when you are in danger. 

They prepare you to run by sending a blast of fuel to your muscles and making your heart pump faster. If you can deal with your stress and move on, the response will recede, and your body will go back into balance. 

But according to Susan Andrews, a clinical neuropsychologist and author of the book Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms: How Breaking Free From Stress Can Boost Your Baby’s Potential, “the kind of stress that’s damaging is the kind that doesn’t let up.” 

In the long term, stressful pregnancy can alter your body’s potential to handle stress, resulting in your body overreacting and triggering an inflammatory response. 

According to one of the studies, psychological factors do not directly impact the fetus. Still, when the psychological functioning of a mother is translated to physiological effects, it affects the fetus.

There are three mechanisms through which this can happen:

  • First:  when psychological factors lead to some alterations in maternal behaviors. 
  • Second:  when it affects the blood flow, it makes the fetus deprived of oxygen and nutrients. 
  • Third:  when the stress-related neurohormones are transported to the fetus through the placenta. 

Typically, stress-related hormones such as cortisol are necessary for the development of a baby. But slight variations in the number of hormones reaching the baby can lead to detrimental birth outcomes, especially during the first trimester. 

It is believed that an increase in the fetal cortisol level can hurt the functioning of certain parts of the brain. It can also lead to the impairment of cognitive function at the time of adolescence. 

Some of the impacts of stressful pregnancy on birth outcome

  • Acute stress increases the risk of preterm birth 
  • Chronic stress 
  • low birth weight
  • developmental delays 

Also Read: Ways to reduce anxiety

Some of the long term effects of stress during pregnancy on an unborn

Stressful pregnancy is associated with birth outcomes and is also associated with long-term effects on the baby. Some of the results include:

  • Women who experience a stressful pregnancy are more likely to have a child with autism. Autism spectrum disorder is a term used to describe many developmental disorders.

It is characterized by impairments in certain vital areas of brain development. It is associated with a wide range of symptoms such as  lack of language development, engagement in the restricted or unusual range of behaviors, and many a time, a child with autism never develop speech.

  • Many studies suggest that stressful pregnancy can lead to congenital heart diseases. It is defined as an abnormality in the heart that occurs before birth.  

When to see a doctor?

A mother needs to know when to visit a doctor. Certain situations are not expected during pregnancy. Some of the health problems during pregnancy to which a woman should pay attention and see a doctor are as follows:

  • Bleeding from the birth canal 
  • Sharp pain in the stomach 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Feeling stressed very often 
  • Swelling in the face 
  • Baby stops moving 
  • A headache that lasts for long 

How to relax during stressful pregnancy?

Seek medical consultation

When it’s getting hard to control your stress, take a step to get medical help. First, you need to understand that it’s OK to ask others for solutions. The others must, particularly by health professionals.

Solutions can range from meditation, parental yoga, medicines(Ashvagandha Anti Stress Capsules), or just a heart-to-heart talk. 

Then, after consulting your doctor, several drugs relax the mind; you can get them over-the-counter or buy them from a reliable online pharmacy

Find your peace and manage stressful pregnancy

Every person finds relaxation in one way or another. If you feel overwhelmed with your stressful pregnancy, you should take some time out and indulge in activities you find peace in. 

It could be having a warm bath, coffee at the terrace, music, reading an excellent book, etc. You can also consider it as your last few days of having ‘me time’ as things are more likely to go here, and after that, the baby arrives. 

Distract yourself

Remember you always wanted to try your hands on painting but never got enough time due to studies and work? Since you must have time to kill, try to distract yourself from pregnancy anxiety and stress by developing a hobby. 

Get social

There are many women like you out there who are as nervous and excited about their babies as you are about yours. You can connect with them on various social media or self-help groups and share your feelings. So you get a girlfriend there, and your kids share the same bench in school?


1 What are the signs of stress during pregnancy?

Some of the common stress symptoms in women during pregnancy are:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Lack of sleep
  • Overeating 
  • Fatigue
  • Upset tummy

2 Do stress and crying affect pregnancy?

Having a weeping session occasionally is unlikely to damage your unborn child. However, more severe depression during pregnancy may have a harmful influence on your pregnancy.

3 Can stress cause birth defects?

Stress hormone corticotropin is released when a woman faces stress in order to handle it. There are chances of the hormone entering the fetal metabolism and amniotic fluid. The process may result in defects, impaired brain development, and often premature birth.

4 Does anger affect pregnancy?

During pregnancy, some women suffer irritation and even hostility. Hormone fluctuations are one cause of mood swings. While occasional annoyance is acceptable, it’s crucial not to dismiss anger if it’s persistent or interfering with your ability to function in everyday life. Anger during pregnancy has been linked to negative effects on the unborn child, according to several studies.

5 When is the most fragile time during pregnancy?

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus is most vulnerable. All of the major organs and body systems are forming at this time, and medicines, infectious agents, radiation, some medications, nicotine, and poisonous chemicals can harm the fetus.

On a concluding note, where occasional stress is normal, exorbitant stress can affect the growth of the baby. It not only affects the development of the brain but also the body. The assistance of a healthcare professional is necessary at times like this.


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