Never Mind That Last Study – Stress Really Isn’t Good For Your Fetus
Last month, Slate writer Amanda Schaffer researched the effects that stress really has on a growing baby and pregnant woman. The results seemed to be that it really wasn’t as bad as we once thought. The conclusion was:
The weight of evidence suggests that moderate levels of stress and anxiety do none of the things we fear. They seem not to affect whether women are able to conceive, whether they carry the fetus to term, or whether their kids reach normal developmental milestones. (If anything, some maternal stress during pregnancy seems to make kids mature a little faster.)
I have to admit that made me breathe a sigh of relief because I have had a pretty stressful pregnancy. There was a move when I was seven months pregnant, an emergency heart surgery for my mom and my brother being deployed to Afghanistan for the second time. And the pregnancy isn’t over yet. I was kind of overjoyed with the idea that I was actually cooking a smarter baby because of all of the stress I was under. Yeah – maybe not so much.
Now, new research on the effects of stress during pregnancy is proving that stress events add up to greater stillbirth odds. Great. This is precisely the kind of thing a stressed-out pregnant woman loves to hear. As if I’m not paranoid enough already. Why do I read these things you ask? Because it’s how I make my living. From Futurity.org:
Led by Carol J. Hogue, Professor of Maternal and Child Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, the study measured the impact of 13 significant life events on women who experienced stillbirths and live births.
“After controlling for other conditions that could cause stillbirths, we found that experience of a stressful event in all four factors increased the risk of stillbirths by about two fold,” explains Hogue.
Also, there was an increased risk of stillbirths associated with an increasing number of events, suggesting a ‘dose-response’ effect of stress on stillbirth risk.”
The significant life events were categorized into four factors: financial, traumatic, partner-related, and emotional. An experience of a stressful event in all four factors “increased the risk of stillbirths by about two-fold.” One of the most disturbing parts of the research was that African American women seemed to be at greatest risk for stress-induced stillbirth, with one in three reporting at least one event in three or all four factors.
I’m not writing this to freak any pregnant women out – I’m doing it to remind us all that it is important to get help if we are experiencing stress during our pregnancies. I know I haven’t reached out to anyone professionally – I’ve just been handling it on my own, usually by being a total bitch to everyone around me and shutting down constantly. Not good.
It’s impossible to shelter ourselves from the regular stresses of life for 40 weeks, but if you feel overwhelmed by the events of your life during your pregnancy this research proves that you should get some help.