Preparation for a healthy pregnancy begins years before conception. A vital part of this includes managing stress. But the reasons why may surprise you.
Every pregnant mom worries about having a healthy, happy baby. They will do everything possible to make this happen. Some changes are obvious–quit smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, don’t clean the cat’s litterbox, take a good prenatal vitamin (which does NOT include the prescription brands!). Others are more subtle. These may include:
- Chemical exposure like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from grilling meats and burning candles and incense may affect your baby’s IQ
- Pesticides in fruits and vegetables may also lead to brain damage in the child
- Making sure you are taking adequate levels of vitamin D supplements
The list is actually quite a bit longer. These items probably make sense because we know that things like chemicals are bad for a developing nervous system and that certain vitamins are absolutely essential. But what about stress?
No one would be shocked to discover that stress is very bad for our health. Studies have shown that stress almost doubles cancer risk as well as contributes to pretty much every chronic disease. So what does this have to do with pregnancy?
Well, we already know that when we eat food that has been under stress, stress signals are passed up the food chain in a concept called xenohormesis. This leads to the organism becoming more stressed because of the food they are eating.
In this particular study, researchers looked at what effect stress had on the offspring of rats. The results do not bode well for the overly stressed human population of the developing world. They found that a stressful exposure led to changes in the brain up to THREE generations later.
These changes were not changes in the genetics of the rats’ offspring, but rather the manner in which the genes were expressed. Let’s look at it this way. As a human, we do not have genes that predestine us to be obese. But clearly we all have the potential to become obese. This is not genetic, but rather it is the way our genes are behaving (and behaving badly, at that…) that produces the obesity.
When brought into this study and used in the obesity example, it would mean that you are obese because your great grandfather was obese.
Now, it’s not that simple for obesity and it’s certainly not be that simple for stress. But imagine the ramifications if this is true. Being a stress monster in your life may lead your child to respond poorly to stress in their lives.
Kind of puts stress into perspective, huh?
With this in mind, what could you possibly be stressing about that is THAT important?