I have been thinking about anxiety and motherhood a lot recently. My partner and I are trying for a baby and it's been quite difficult. I've lost count of the amount of pregnancy tests I've bought, and the amount of times I've had little melt downs when they have come back negative.
I was diagnosed with anxiety years ago, and still live in the hope that I'll learn to cope better than I do. I'm trying to listen to the man when he says 'don't stress,' but it's easier said than done when you have a disorder that wants you to do nothing but stress. Much of my stress right now is over the fact that I'm worrying that I'm not actually able to get pregnant.
Studies have shown that, stress - the most natural thing for an expectant mom to feel - can be harmful to babies. For example, it could, potentially, wire the child's brain in such a way that, once they're born, they will be prone to worrying and feeling anxious. Permanently. In this article, we present 15 ways that anxiety can impact the foetus, and the life your child will have outside of the womb.
15 Born With Abnormalities
After researching and writing this article, getting help with my stress and anxiety has now been put at the very top of my list of priorities. And if you are experiencing similar issues with your emotional health, I strongly suggest that you out on at the top of your list too.
Findings have shown that anxiety while carrying your child, could increase the chances of them being born with abnormalities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
Sudden and extremely stressful events that take place in the first few weeks of you being pregnant can put you at a higher risk of having a baby with birth defects. Researchers from Denmark say that it is possible for severe stress to affect the baby's tissue and organs at a crucial time in their development. It's during the first three months that your child's organs are forming.
14 Born Too Soon
While the impact of stress on your unborn child is debatable, it is something you should be aware and educated on, especially with the rising levels of evidence supporting the idea that it can cause long-term damage.
Some experts believe that if you encounter prolonged bouts of severe stress - for example if there is a death in the family, you lose your job or your relationship deteriorates with your significant other - the chances of complications such as preterm birth can occur.
Preterm birth, also known as premature birth, is when the baby is born earlier than 37 weeks, and it is the most common cause of death among infants. Dr Veronica O'Keane, an expert in mental health in pregnancy, said, "Many thousands of the unexplained premature births are likely to be caused by soaring levels of stress hormones."
13 Low Birth Weight
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, it would be a wise decision to make life choices that will enable you to cut at least some of the stress from your life. (Though it is easier said than done, believe me, I know.) Studies have shown that stress - amazingly even before pregnancy - could potentially lead to your future baby being born at a low weight.
Chris Dunkel Schetter who is a UCLA professor of psychology, urges women to evaluate their stress levels now if they plan on getting pregnant in the future. She said, "Women should treat depression, evaluate and treat stress, be sure they are in a healthy relationship, be physically active, stop smoking and gather family support. All of the things that create an optimal pregnancy and healthy life for the mother should be done before getting pregnant."
12 Sleep Disorders
It is well-known that women who suffer from depression or anxiety during pregnancy, have elevated levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. Results from a recent study published in the journal Early Human Development suggest that higher levels of maternal anxiety and depression, during pregnancy, could mean that there is a much greater risk of your child not being able to sleep well during the first few years of their life.
Author Thomas O’Connor, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center says, "We’ve long known that child’s sleep is vital to his or her growth, but the origins of problems affecting it remained unclear. Now, we have evidence that these patterns may be set early on, perhaps even before birth. This is another piece in the unfolding mystery of just how much the prenatal environment may shape a child’s health and development for years to come."
11 Behavioral Problems
Everything that you feel when you are pregnant is felt by your baby, and if you are a ball of anxiety all the way through your pregnancy, there is a chance your child may well experience behavioral difficulties when they're born.
While that's enough to send shivers down the spine of any expectant mom, if you are expecting, take that information and use it to help you decrease your stress levels. Find your stress levels rising? Do what you can to bring them down again. Continue doing the activities you enjoy, for example going out for a walk or meeting up with friends.
Though what you are feeling when you're pregnant can have an impact on the 'foetal programming,' it is possible that it can be reversible with good quality after care once your child is born.
10 Mom Could Lose The Baby
One of most anxiety provoking thoughts when you are pregnant is that of 'Is my baby ok? am I going to lose it?' Sadly, the more anxiety riddled you become in early pregnancy, the higher the chances are of you losing the fetus.
During times of stress, the brain releases several hormones -- including one called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is a hormone secreted by the brain in reaction to stress. It's also produces in the placenta and uterus.
Past research has shown women who deliver prematurely or have low-birth-weight babies were often found to have high levels of CRH in their bloodstream, and other studies show a greater risk of miscarriage in women reporting stress. Thankfully this research means that more women are able to be alerted to the risks and take preventative measures.
9 Baby Can Be Prone To Emotional Problems
Writing this article has had me thinking about my own mother. I know that much of her life before having kids was - through no fault of her own - one emotional trauma after another. And I wonder if the stress she had to face before had an impact on my siblings and I as we're all been prone to emotional issues.
The research that has been done into how stress - before and during pregnancy - can affect your baby is staggering. One of the primary findings is how your baby could be prone to experiencing their own emotional problems.
"If you can deal with your stress and move on, your stress response will recede and your body will go back into balance. But, the kind of stress that’s really damaging is the kind that doesn’t let up," says Susan Andrews, PhD, a clinical nuropsychologist and author.
8 Poor Maternal-Child Interaction
Another major fear that expectant moms have is 'Will my child like me? Will they want to be around me?' Naturally this can promote vast levels of anxiety. But it is so important to take a step back, breathe and do what you can to bring your anxiety down, for anxiety is how been associated with poor maternal - child interaction.
One of the best ways to start bringing down your anxiety, is to talk to your partner about it. (There will be a good chance that they too have stresses of their own, and will feel that it is a relief to talk.) Ensure that you are communicating openly, honestly and regularly. If you are feeling especially anxious, don't hesitate to contact your caregiver. They may recommend professional counseling which could really help to ease the pressure of those anxious thoughts.
7 Reduced Birth Height
Some of the issues I have talked about here have been fairly obvious and straight forward, but I honestly never would have made the link between anxiety and height! However, there have been claims that there is a significant link between the height of your baby at birth and anxiety during pregnancy.
But for those of you worrying, Ann Furedi, a spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said about a study which linked anxiety to small babies, "When a woman is pregnant often she will be very concerned about how the pregnancy is going to end.
Many pregnant women tend to worry about studies like this. My advice to them is to chill out - I suspect there is very little stress will do to effect the outcome of the pregnancy."
6 Impaired Cognitive Development
Everything on this list is motivating me not to maintain my anxiety levels at the frightening level they are at now. Though especially the fact that my stress could have an impact on my future child's cognitive development.
The increased stress hormones in your pregnant body, in particular Cortisol and androgens which induce anxiety, can have a dire impact on your child's developing brain. It could lead to cognitive changes and changes in language development as well as troubles with tasks like writing. It can also be harder for them to get along with other children.
But Dr Rodriguez of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London urged pregnant women not to be alarmed by the risk, saying: "It is really important to put it into perspective and to go about your business and try to relax, get support from different people and do things that make you feel good."
5 Prolonged Crying
It is no shame to hope for a baby that is going to be calm. Heaven knows I am hoping for a quiet baby. I know that my little brother was an angel for my mom, and gave her hardly any hassle at all. My sister on the other hand...she cried because she could. I can still remember the ear piercing sound 30 years later.
It would appear that nothing escapes the clutches of stress during pregnancy, including how many tears your little one is going to give you. Studies have shown that if your anxiety while you are carrying your child can result with them crying for prolonged periods of time in the neonatal period. Depressive symptoms and job stress during pregnancy are also associated with excessive infant crying.
4 Irritability And Restlessness
I can remember my little sister being constantly irritable and restless when she was little. I thought I could make her feel better by hugging her all the time. Rarely did it work. She really was a little force to be reckoned with!
If you are a stressed mom-to-be, several biological changes occur in your body. Maintain your high stress levels, and the bigger the chances are of you having a little one that is bad tempered and unruly.
Dr. Hobel, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at Cedars Sinai and a professor of obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics at University of California says, "Stress is a silent disease. Pregnant women need to be educated in recognizing when they have stress, the consequences and some of the simple things they can do to make a difference."
3 Asthma Attacks
Going to mention my poor mother again here! When my brother was born, my mom already had my sister and I - a real handful! Her life, while happy, was stressful though I'm wondering if the stress of already having two kids and not much money may have contributed to my little brother's asthma. He doesn't suffer anymore (he's in his 20's now) but I can remember as a kid him regularly making trips to the hospital and needing an inhaler.
A study at Harvard Medical School has been examining the impact that parental stress has on child asthma. They have found that children born to moms who reported higher levels of stress during pregnancy showed increased sensitivity to allergen exposures. The findings suggest that stress during pregnancy influences a child's developing immune system.
2 Coronary Disease
When I read the words 'coronary disease' my blood ran cold. Just imagining that my stress (much of what I bring on myself) could cause my child to have troubles with their heart in adulthood is absolutely devastating.
A study showed that if an expectant mother is severely stressed over a longer period of time, the risk of the unborn child developing a mental or physical illness later in life — such as cardiovascular disease - increases.
Short-term stressful situations however, did not appear to have an impact on the foetus. If you find that you are exposed to long-term stressful situations - perhaps a family member has died or your partner is being emotionally cruel to you - seek support from a therapist who will be able to help you handle the stress better.
1 ADHD Baby
For the majority of pregnant women, stress and anxiety are all part and parcel of pregnancy. While some anxiety is inevitable - and normal - there is growing evidence that if you suffer from high levels of anxiety while carrying your baby, it could affect their life long after they're born.
A recently published study provides evidence for a strong link between maternal anxiety levels early on in pregnancy, and a child's vulnerability to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) years later. Astonishingly, the link between anxiety and ADHD was stronger than other predictors of behavioral issues, including the mother smoking while pregnant and a low birth weight.
Author Bea Van den Bergh, who was involved in one of the studies, says, "Obviously, genetic predisposition plays an important role in these disorders, but this suggests an interaction between environmental factors and genes."
Sources: NewsWeek.com, GetFitForBirth.com, WebMD.com, Parents.com, DailyMail.com, TheScotsman.com, ParentHerald.com. TheGurdian.com