Stress seems to predominate in society today. While I seem to have this internal broken record playing that line over and over in my head, it’s really just because the medical research demonstrating associations between chronic disease and stress is so overwhelming.
Stress destroys you. Period. No matter how much you try to rationalize it to yourself, few things you actually are stressing about right now are worth the destruction it is causing you inside.
Of course, it is bad enough when the stress affects only your health.
But what about your unborn baby?
Stress shortens your life. But what if it can shorten your baby’s life even BEFORE he or she is born??
I have discussed the concept of telomeres in a previous blog article that can be read by clicking here. In summary, telomeres are like the wicks on the end of the DNA in your cells. The shorter the wick, the less life that cell has left in it. And much like the wick of a candle, as it burns down you don’t get more of it.
That means that anything you can do to preserve the length of the telomeres inside of your cells is a good thing. We have solid research on the lifestyle choices that help to preserve telomere length. Stress is on this “short” list.
Conversely, we have research that shows that shortened telomeres are associated with many chronic diseases like cancer.
With this knowledge, we can move back to this particular study.
Researchers evaluated a small group of pregnant women and measured the level of psychosocial stress the mothers were under during pregnancy. They then evaluated the white blood cells (leukocytes) present in the cord blood at birth.
There was a clear association between stress levels in the mom and the length of the telomeres in the cord blood.
Now. If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant in the near future, ask yourself if the things you stress about are worth setting up your baby for chronic disease before they are even out of the womb. If you’re having an internal debate right now, let me settle it–it’s NOT.
Beyond reconciling with the stressors, there are also powerful tools that you can use to manage stress. These can include:
- Transcedental meditation
- Relaxation audio (CDs, MP3)
- Relaxation programs
- Biofeedback devices like the Resperate
- Pregnancy massage (ALWAYS a good idea…)
Fix it. Now. The stakes are higher than you can imagine.