Maternal stress – harmful effects on the developing foetus and what you can do.

This article provides some very important information that all expecting mothers should know, yet, it is highly likely that very few do.  I personally was unaware of the research that had been done in this area and only came across it recently while looking at the more general effects of stress. On reading the papers, I realized just how important the information was. The first section details research findings and while they are a bit technical, please read carefully to at least get the idea of what they are saying. Here we go… The contribution of various forms of stress, including psychological stress, to the origin and progression of many complex, common aging-related health disorders that represent the major global burden of disease is well established.[1]

The effects of exposure to (maternal) psychological stress during intrauterine life appear to be particularly salient, with important consequences for not only adverse birth and neonatal outcomes, but also for subsequent health and disease risk-related outcomes over the lifespan, including metabolic, endocrine, immune, and cognitive processes.[2]

Extensive animal studies have documented life-long effects of exposure to stress and stress hormones during prenatal development. In humans the most well-documented consequences of prenatal stress are preterm birth and low birth weight. [3] Different studies have shown exposure to stresses in the 1 st , 2 nd or 3 rd trimester can be associated with preterm and low birth rate. [4][5]

One study provides evidence that even in a healthy population with term pregnancies, prenatal exposure to elevated maternal stress hormones (cortisol) later in pregnancy is associated with maternal report of increased behaviourally reactive temperament in infancy. [3]

Another study suggests that the effects of prenatal stress exposure on cellular aging may begin during intrauterine life and may already be evident at the time of birth. After accounting for the potential effects of gestational age at birth, weight, sex, and exposure to antepartum obstetric complications, maternal pregnancy-specific psychosocial stress was significantly and independently associated with newborn low telomere length. The magnitude of the effect in the study was equivalent to or greater than that of smoking, obesity, diabetes, or hypertension on adult telomere length. [2]

Telomeres, are noncoding DNA structures that cap the ends of linear chromosomes and play a central, critical role in maintaining the integrity (stability) of the genome and cell.[2]

Telomere maintenance has relevance for long-term health. Shortened leukocyte telomere length in human beings has been consistently associated with earlier mortality, and age-associated disease risk (eg, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, type 2 diabetes).   [2]

What does all this mean? Well if you are pregnant and interested in giving your child a better start in life and reducing the risk for many diseases later in life, then having your own stress levels reduced during the pregnancy is clearly very important. However, therein lays a conundrum of no mean order. From my observation, it appears uncommon to find a form of therapy that achieves a real physiological reduction in the effects of stress on your body.

One such therapy is Network Chiropractic. You may be a little surprised by this but please realize that Network is very different. There is no manipulation (cracking or crunching of the spine or pelvis). Instead, very gentle contacts are made to tissues overlying the spine with the intent of stimulating a release of excessive tension from the nervous system. And STRESS , in its many forms, is a significant factor that leads to the accumulation of nervous system tension.

As the nervous system tension releases, many people feel a relaxing or easing inside themselves, that is, the effects of the stress are reducing. In additional, muscles relax, the spine softens and straightens, the whole body becomes more at ease. Back pain, neck pain and headaches often ease very significantly. And as many as 50% of pregnant women have back pain.Furthermore in a study of 2818 people conducted at the University of California Irvine college of medicine [6], Network was found to provide many benefits including:* Reduced pain

* Improved spinal flexibility

* More energy,

* Fewer colds/flu

* Fewer headaches.

* Less stress with family, significant relationships and work

* Improved coping with daily problems.

* More positive feelings about themselves

* Less moodiness, temper or anger outbursts

* Improved ability to think and concentrate

* Less anxiety or depression.

The authors of the study conclude, “The evidence of improved health in the four domains (physical state, mental/emotional state, stress evaluation, life enjoyment) and overall quality of life, suggests that Network Care is associated with significant benefits.”

My recommendation. If you are pregnant, then have your system checked out by a Network chiropractor for the effects of stress and if present have them corrected without delay. The earlier in the course of the pregnancy the better.

Please note, the effects of stress accumulate throughout a person’s lifetime and progressively affect their system. So even if you don’t feel currently feel stressed, it is wise to have your system checked out.

So, please call us at (03) 9793 3755 for an initial appointment. This appointment includes a consultation, a specific assessment of the spine, muscles and nervous system for the presence of nervous system tension and the effects of stress. The initial consultation also includes a gentle and relaxing stress reduction treatment session. The whole initial visit takes approx. 45 – 60 minutes. The fee for the entire initial consultation, including the stress reduction treatment session is currently available for just $85.  (Normally, you might expect to pay considerably more for this type of service.)

1. Cohen S., Janicki-Deverts D., Miller G.E.:  Psychological stress and disease.   JAMA 298. 1685-1687.2007
2. Entringer S., et al.  Maternal psychosocial stress during pregnancy is associated with newborn leukocyte telomere length.American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology – Volume 208, Issue 2 (February 2013)  3. Davis E.P., et. al. Exposure to Maternal Depression and Cortisol Influences Infant Temperament. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – Volume 46, Issue 6 (June 2007)  4. Zhu P., Tao F.,  Hao J.,  Sun Y.,  Jiang X. Prenatal life events stress: implications for preterm birth and infant birth weight. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology – Volume 203, Issue 1 (July 2010)  5. Wadhwa, P. D., Entringer S., Buss C., Lu M. C. The Contribution of Maternal Stress to Preterm Birth: Issues and Considerations. Clinics in Perinatology – Volume 38, Issue 3 (September 2011)  6. R. Blanks (Professor Dept of Anatomy and Neurobiology, College of Medicine, University of California Irvine), et. al. A retrospective assessment of Network care using a survey of self-rated health, wellness and quality of life. JVSR Vol 1. No 4. 1997, pg 15 – 30.