Numerous studies have shown a link between the mental health of pregnant women and their unborn children. Aside from the genetic risk factors inherent in families, mothers who experience depression, anxiety, or other distress while pregnant tend to have smaller babies and higher rates of complications than those who proceed through pregnancy without these conditions. Most studies that have examined the effects of maternal stress on birth weight have assessed this relationship in the last trimester of pregnancy by looking at changes in arterial resistance in the umbilical or uterine arteries. In a new study, Anne Helbig of the Norwegian Resource Centre for Women’s Health at Oslo University Hospital in Norway chose to look instead at the volume of blood flow from mother to baby via placental circulation through the umbilical vein (UV).
Helbig measured the blood flow volume of 104 pregnant women in week 30 of their pregnancy. All of the women were categorized as nonsmokers with no history of previous obstetric complications. Helbig evaluated the blood flow volume data obtained through ultrasounds and assessments of depression, anxiety, and life stress on all the participants. She found that the mothers with excessive emotional distress had lower fetoplacental blood flow volume, suggesting that less oxygenated blood was getting to the babies. This could result in lower birth weights and more risk for developmental complications for the children.
“The present study does not differentiate between current stress and chronic or repeated stress,” said Helbig. She believes identifying mothers at risk for chronic stress during pregnancy, perhaps stress arising from a prior difficult pregnancy, could help improve the outcome of unborn children. However, this study does clearly show that regardless of whether a woman is experiencing stress from a prior life event or from current circumstances, the effects of that stress do impact the essential nutrients that her fetus receives through the blood and placental circulation. Helbig hopes more work is devoted to addressing the impact of a mother’s well-being on her unborn child and methods to reduce maternal stress.
Helbig, A., Kaasen, A., Malt, U.F., Haugen, G. (2013). Does antenatal maternal psychological distress affect placental circulation in the third trimester? PLoS ONE 8(2): e57071. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057071
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.