Stress and pregnancy: what are the risks?
Pregnancy is not, for all mothers, a time of fullness and fulfillment. Some pregnant women are depressed, worried, sad … Numerous studies now show that this stress can have an impact on pregnancy and the baby. But what is it really? Answers.
More than one in three women are not fully aware of the risks associated with stress during pregnancy , according to a survey by the PremUp Foundation. However, these risks exist. Recent work seems to indicate an impact of prenatal stress on the course of pregnancy and the health of the unborn baby. A large Dutch study, carried out in 2011 on more than 66,000 mothers and children, confirmed that maternal stress could be associated with certain pathologies.
“ There are now data that cannot be disputed, ” confirms Françoise Molénat *, child psychiatrist and perinatal psychoanalyst. “ Very specific studies have compared the type of prenatal stress and the effects on mom and baby.
The little stresses of everyday life, without risk for pregnancy
The mechanism is actually quite simple. Stress generates hormonal secretions which cross the placental barrier. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can thus be found, in greater or lesser quantities, in the baby’s blood. But don’t panic, not all emotions necessarily influence pregnancy and the fetus.
The stress of adaptation, the one that occurs when you learn that you are pregnant, is absolutely not negative. “ Mothers shouldn’t panic, this stress is a defensive reaction to a new situation. It is completely normal, ”explains Françoise Molénat. “ Pregnancy causes a lot of physical and emotional upheaval. “
The emotional stress, meanwhile, generates tension, fear, irritability. It is very common during pregnancy. The mother is plagued by small daily anxieties, unexplained mood swings. But again, there is no impact on the health of the child or on the course of the pregnancy. If, however, these emotions do not affect the general condition too much.
Stress and pregnancy: the risks for mothers
Sometimes it’s true, it happens that expecting mothers have higher stress levels. Unemployment, family or marital problems, bereavement, accident… these distressing events can have real repercussions for pregnant women and their fetuses. It is the same during acute stress caused by a natural disaster, a war … Work shows that these anxieties are indeed associated with complications of pregnancy: premature childbirth, growth retardation, low birth weight…
Stress and pregnancy: the risks for babies
Certain stresses can also cause infectious pathologies, diseases of the ear and respiratory tract in children. A recent Inseam survey suggests that babies, whose mother has experienced a particularly distressing event during pregnancy, have an increased risk of developing asthma and eczema.
Other impacts have also been observed, ” in particular in the cognitive, emotional and behavioral areas “, notes Françoise Molénat. ” Mother’s stress can cause disturbances in the regulation of the fetal nervous system “, which can affect the psychological development of the infant. To know besides that the 1st and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy are the most sensitive periods.
Be careful, however, the multifactorial effects of stress remain difficult to assess. Fortunately, nothing is final. Most of the impacts are reversible. “ What can make the fetus vulnerable in utero can be recovered at birth, ” says Françoise Molénat. “ The context that will be offered to the child is decisive and can repair experiences of insecurity. “
Supporting the mother during pregnancy
There is no question of making the mother feel guilty by telling her that her stress is bad for her baby. It would only increase his anxieties. The most important thing is to help him reduce his fears. Speech remains the first treatment to improve maternal well-being. Nicole Berlo-Dupont, an executive midwife in home hospitalization, observes her daily. “ The women I support experience complications during their pregnancy. They are particularly distressed. Our role is first of all to reassure them. “
The individual interview in the 4th month, set up by the 2005-2007 perinatal plan, is precisely aimed at enabling women to be listened to, in order to detect possible psychological difficulties. ” A stressed-out mother-to-be first needs to be taken care of “, adds Françoise Molénat. “ If she feels heard in her own worry, she will already be much better. Speech has an extremely reassuring function, but it must be reliable. It is now up to the professionals to take the measure of this issue!