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Pregnant mothers' stress can lead to behavioral problems in child

By Nkoyo Iyamba  |  Posted Jul 27th, 2011 @ 7:57pm



SALT LAKE CITY — A recent study out of Australia says the more stressed a woman is while pregnant, the more likely her child will be to experience future behavioral problems.

In the study from Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, researchers analyzed 3,000 pregnant women and followed up with their children from age 2 to 14 years old.

Doctors found over 37-percent of women have two or more life stressors. The result: kids whose mothers had stressful pregnancies just didn't handle stress very well.

"Pregnant women are more emotional," said Iris Dyer, a pregnant Utah mother. "So I know that I cry more, and my 1-year-old has cried because I've cried — not because anything is wrong, but because momma is upset."

Dyer is a divorced, single mom with three kids and a fourth due in September. "Even the littlest things I can be stressed about," she said.

Seemingly small stressors like raucous kids, car troubles, bills, and all the emotions of life, can also be compounded by difficult pregnancies.

Researchers say the more stress factors in a woman's life during pregnancy, the more her child will be at risk for behavioral problems.

"What we have found is that it is the overall number of stresses that is most related to child behavior outcomes," the study's lead author, Dr. Monique Robinson, said in a press release. "Two or fewer stresses during pregnancy are not associated with poor child behavioral development, but as the number of stresses increase to three or more, then the risks of more difficult child behavior increase."

Researchers say these statistics shouldn't scare women because no matter what happens in the womb, a positive and nurturing environment after birth can help a child's brain adapt well to stress.


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