Pregnant women should not have any stress. A new study disclosed that stress in pregnant women could affect areas of the brain of the infant related to emotional development.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh held the study. In the study, the researchers found that cortisol, a hormone involved in stress pattern, is linked to the development of the infant’s amygdala. This is the brain area involved in emotional and social development in childhood.
Lead researcher James Boardman (University of Edinburgh) pointed out that their findings are a warning that pregnant women should have better mental support and always free from any stress.
The study was done in 78 pregnant women. The levels of cortisol in them were tested in previous three months and their babies underwent a series of MRI brain scans. They found that higher cortisol levels in the mother’s hair were linked to structural changes in the amygdala of the infant. It also showed differences in brain connections.
The researchers noted that maternal stress influenced the development of the child’s behaviour and emotion regulation. However all these were measured by questionnaires. They claimed that this was the first study where levels of the hormone cortisol were measured to detect links with development of baby brain. They said that it was now clear why children whose mothers experienced high levels of stress at the time of pregnancy were likely to have emotional issues in later life.
Though the stress level of stress was determined, the researchers said that they did not assess emotion in children. Rebecca Reynolds (University of Edinburgh), who co-led the study, said that the findings would help in guiding therapies in future.