I came across an interesting article on the BBC website today about a research study which suggests that the children of women who experience severe stress when pregnant are nearly 10 times more likely to develop a personality disorder by the age of 30. Even moderate prolonged stress may have an impact on child development and continue after a baby’s birth, the research study said.
The study involved more than 3,600 pregnant women in Finland in 1975 and 1976 who were asked about their stress levels thoughout their pregnancy, and their children were followed up. Of course the study is only indicative and other factors such as upbringing, physical health, traumatic life events and family break ups could have played a part. It does however seem self evident (to me at least!) that amount of cortisol and other neurochemicals that high stress levels creates would significantly increase the risk of harm to the brain and emotional development of a baby.
So while not conclusive it is a useful warning about the need for pregnant women to be aware of the effects of stress and to seek help as necessary to minimise stress during pregnancy. I shall be interested to see if the publicity this study generates brings an increase in the number of pregnant clients who come to me for help to prevent and manage stress.