Loath as we are to admit it, stress has become a normal part of everyday life—and how can it not? Among other things, the earth is getting hotter. North Korea and the Islamic State are threatening world peace. And Donald Trump is running for president of the United States.
Stress, for the most part, can’t be good for anyone. Because when you are stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisone. In layman’s terms, it is the responsible for the “fight or flight” response in our body.
You start to sweat. Your heart beats faster. You become hyperaware of your surroundings.
These things, in themselves, are not bad. But a sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function—among other things.
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But there’s more: in pregnant women, cortisol risks the baby to have decreased birth weight.
According to Medical News Today: “When the researchers analyzed the relationship between the women’s inter-pregnancy cortisol patterns and birth outcomes, they found those with a flatter diurnal cortisol slope tended to have lower birth weight babies.”
“We found that the same cortisol pattern that has been linked with chronic stress is associated with delivering a baby that weighs less at birth,” said Christine Guardino, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA).
Not only that, unborn babies exposed to cortisol are found to handle stress differently later in life.
“Women should treat depression, evaluate and treat stress, be sure they are in a healthy relationship, be physically active, stop smoking and gather family support,” said Chris Dunkel Schetter, a UCLA professor of psychology, who also worked on the study.
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“All of the things that create an optimal pregnancy and healthy life for the mother should be done before getting pregnant.”
The mothers who participated in the study revealed that their stress comes from various sources, from financial troubles and relationships with family and neighbors, “to major life events, including death of a family member and incidents of violence and racism.”
This is why forming friendships and cultivating them during pregnancy is important; having a support group during this time in a woman’s life is not only healthy mentally, but studies also say that it affects overall health.
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