Stress and pregnancy: what are the risks?

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Stress and pregnancy: what are the risks?: Pregnancy is not, for all mothers, a period of fullness and fulfillment. Some pregnant women are depressed, worried, sad … Many studies now show that this stress can have an impact on pregnancy and the baby. However, what is happening? Answers.

Stress and pregnancy: what are the risks?
Stress and pregnancy: what are the risks?

More than one in three women is unaware of the risks associated with stress during pregnancy, according to a survey by the PremUp Foundation. These risks exist. Recent work seems to indicate an incidence of prenatal stress on the course of pregnancy and the health of the future 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 can not be challenged,” confirms Françoise Molénat *, a child psychiatrist, and a perinatal psychoanalyst. “Very specific studies have compared the type of prenatal stress and the effects on mom and baby. ”

The small stresses of daily life, without risk

The mechanism is quite simple. Stress generates hormonal secretions that pass the placental barrier. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can thus be found, in greater or lesser amount, in the baby’s blood. However, do not panic, all emotions do not necessarily affect the pregnancy and the fetus.

The stress of coping, the one that happens when you learn that you are pregnant, is not harmful. “Mothers should not panic, this stress is a defense reaction to a new situation. It is entirely reasonable, “explains Françoise Molénat. “Pregnancy causes a lot of physical and emotional upheavals.

” The emotional stress, meanwhile, generates tension, fear, irritability. It is very common during pregnancy. The mother is a prey to little anxieties of everyday life, unexplained mood swings. However, again, there is no impact on the health of the child or the course of the pregnancy. If, however, these emotions do not resound too much on the general state.

Stress and pregnancy: risks for mothers

Sometimes, it is true, sometimes moms-to-be have higher levels of stress. Unemployment, family or marital problems, bereavement, accidents … these distressing events can have real repercussions in the pregnant woman and her fetus. The same is true for acute stress caused by a natural disaster, war … Work shows that these anxieties are indeed associated with complications of pregnancy: premature delivery, stunted growth, small birth weight.

Stress and pregnancy: risks in the baby

Some stress can also cause infectious diseases in children, ear diseases, respiratory tract. A recent Inserm survey suggests that children whose mother has experienced a particularly distressing event during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing asthma and eczema. Other impacts were also observed, “especially in the cognitive, emotional and behavioral domains,” notes Françoise Molénat. ” The stress of the mother can cause disorders in the regulation of the nervous system of the fetus,” which can affect the psychological development of the infant. In other words, the first and third trimesters of pregnancy are the most sensitive periods.

Caution, however, the multifactorial effects of stress remain difficult to evaluate. Fortunately, nothing is final. Most impacts are reversible. “What can make the fetus vulnerable in utero can be recovered at birth, ” says Françoise Molénat. “The context that is going to be offered to the child is decisive and can repair the experiences of insecurity. ”

Accompany the mother during pregnancy

No way to blame the mom by telling her that her stress is bad for her baby. This would only increase his anguish. The most important thing is to help him lessen his fears. Speech remains the first treatment to improve maternal well-being. Nicole Berlo-Dupont, a midwife in hospitalization at home, observes it daily. “The women I accompany suffer complications during their pregnancy. They are particularly anxious. Our role is first and foremost to reassure them. ”

The individual interview of the 4th month, set up by the 2005-2007 perinatal plan, aims to enable women to be listened to detect any psychological difficulties. ” A future stressed mom needs to be taken care of,” adds Françoise Molénat. “If she feels heard in her anxiety, she will already be much better. Speech has an extremely secure function, but it must be reliable. “Professionals now take the measure of this challenge!

* Françoise Molénat is the author with Luc Roegiers, of “Stress and pregnancy.