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Children Benefited By Moderate Maternal Stress?

Disputing the widely held belief, moderate levels of psychological stress in the expectant mother might prove beneficial to fetal maturation,// according to research conducted at the Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study is published in the May/June 2006 edition of the journal Child Development.

"We found that modest anxiety and daily stress during pregnancy is associated with more advanced early child development. These findings remained even after accounting for levels of stress and anxiety women experienced at six weeks and at two years postpartum. Prenatal maternal stress also didn't interfere with children's temperaments, attention capacity or ability to control behavior and did not cause hyperactivity," said Janet A. DiPietro, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Population and Family Health Sciences.

The authors found one exception to their study results: the children of women who regarded their pregnancy as more negative than positive showed slightly poorer emotional control and attention capacity.

The researchers followed 137 women from mid-pregnancy though their child's second birthday. Self-reported anxiety, pregnancy-specific and nonspecific stress and depressive symptoms were collected from expecting mothers during mid-pregnancy. Ninety-four children were assessed for mental and motor development, as well as their ability to control their behavior and regulate their emotions, at 24 months of age.

"Our findings should provide relief to women who are experiencing the normal anxieties and stresses common to the demands of modern life. In essence, women can stop worrying that their emotional state is harming their unborn baby. Obviously, we don't recommend that women seek out stress, because maternal exhaustion is not good preparation for labor and delivery and the demands of c
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