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Please read the following excerpts from the article, “The consequence of stress during pregnancy”, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/06/stress-pregnancy
Today, it’s well accepted that chronic stress can affect a person’s physical health in all sorts of ways. But more than three decades ago, when psychologist Christine Dunkel Schetter, PhD, joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the connection between stress processes and physiology was significantly fuzzier. In the intervening years, she has helped bring that picture into focus.
Among her most important findings: The stress and anxiety that women experience while they are pregnant—or even before conceiving—can affect their health and the health of their future children, leading to problems including low birth weight, earlier delivery and postpartum depression.
Dunkel Schetter followed 130 socioeconomically disadvantaged women, mostly Latina- or African-American, from pregnancy through the postpartum period. Through a series of in-depth interviews with each participant, they found that prenatal stress predicted lower birth weight and earlier delivery, after controlling for traditional medical risk factors (Health Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1992).
Though some previous research had hinted at the connection, Dunkel Schetter says, this was the first prospective study to demonstrate the effect with greater methodological rigor. “Almost immediately, more collaborators and grants started coming to me. There was a deluge of interest,” she says.
In a study led by Dunkel Schetter’s former graduate student Christine Guardino, PhD, now at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the researchers found women who had cortisol patterns associated with greater stress before they became pregnant went on to have children with lower birth weights (Health Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 6, 2016).
In another study of the women who went on to have second pregnancies, Dunkel Schetter and colleagues examined various stressors as well as the women’s perception of their own stress. They found that women who reported more depressive symptoms after the birth of one child were at risk for greater stress in the months and years that followed, and those stressors, in turn, increased the likelihood of depressive symptoms in the next postpartum period (Clinical Psychological Science, Vol. 4, No. 5, 2016).
Together, such findings indicate that the stress women experience even before conceiving a child is associated with poorer health for the women in pregnancy and beyond, and for their future children. “To help mothers, we have to start even before pregnancy,” Dunkel Schetter says.
Do the findings linking stress and issues such as pre-term birth and lower birth rate surprise you? What do you think are some of the most common stressors experienced by pregnant women?
Based on the information provided in the article, what in your opinion could or should be done for women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, to address the possible consequences of stress on their pregnancy and later on their children?
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