Prenatal Stress and Aging

When you’re pregnant, your baby depends on you for nourishment and a safe place to grow and thrive. As I often say, the mother is the seed and the soil for her baby. Your nutrition, your immunity, and your gut health become your baby’s nourishment, immunity, and gut health. But how does your prenatal stress levels affect your baby?

You know the negative effects that stress has on your health. Stress can cause everything from daily annoyances like fatigue, insomnia, and joint pain to more chronic conditions like autoimmunity, depression, and heart disease.

Today, we’re learning that stress not only has negative affects on your health, but on baby’s short- and long-term health as well.

Stress During Pregnancy May Cause Premature Aging in Baby

Anxiety, depression, and stress during pregnancy are risk factors for shorter gestation periods, lower birth weight, and can negatively impact fetal brain development. (1) This can have profound effects on baby’s emotional and behavioral outcomes as well.

One study showed a hyperactive stress response in chickens exposed to high levels of stress hormones during gestation. Or in other words, when a developing chicken was exposed to stress it was more sensitive to stress and overreacted to the stressors.

The stress hormones from mom make their way to a developing fetus and actually make baby more susceptible to stress.

One of the major results observed was advanced aging. These chickens showed increased signs of aging, sometimes by as much as 10 years! (2)

You know I’m all about supporting moms prior to, during, and post pregnancy, so this information is definitely not meant to stress you out more! Instead, I aim to empower you with this information. For me, it’s all about giving my patients the “why” behind what we do.

On that note, I’d like to share some of my favorite ways to destress or bring yourself from the sympathetic “fight or flight” state to the parasympathetic “rest and digest” state.

What can you do to reduce your stress?

Breathe.

This is the quickest, easiest way to take yourself from a place of anxiety and stress to a place of peace. Breathe in through the nose, hold your breath briefly for a moment, then let the air out slowly between pursed lips. Repeat this as many times as it takes to calm down. Probably 2-5 breaths.

Find your happy place.

Picture a time in which you were happy. Close your eyes and imagine every sensation of that situation. Hold onto this image and next time you find yourself feeling stressed, take a moment to imagine this “happy place.” It can help you relax and bring perspective on the situation.

Meditate.

You do not need to practice yoga or even have a mat. Just close your eyes for 5-10 minutes daily and focus on your breath. Feel yourself inhaling and exhaling completely. Relax in your chair and let yourself spend a few minutes away from whatever is bringing you stress.

Take a walk.

Oftentimes when our stress levels get high we find ourselves with an excess of energy we need to dump. Take a walk or do another activity that get the big muscles in your legs moving. This will help you get the blood flowing and will diminish the adrenaline coursing throughout your body.  

Be grateful.

Bring your life into perspective and recognize all that you have to be grateful for. You can start a gratitude journal and pull it out when life gets tough or you can simply reflect quietly to yourself.

Get your giggle on.

What makes you laugh? A funny joke, a good story, or a silly memory can help move stress through your body and bring on some internal mood boosting molecules. Laughter is powerful medicine.

prenatal stress pregnancy fertility

Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, but with the right tools, you can lessen the impact it has on your body and baby's!
Taking a holistic approach to mom and baby's wellness is the only way to create a lifetime of amazing health. In my clinic, we strive to help mother's improve their stress, energy, mood, digestion and more during pregnancy and prior to conception. 
I invite you to schedule a free 10 minute call to learn more about how you can create amazing health for both you and your baby! 
Schedule here today! 

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4447112/
  2. http://www.bucknell.edu/x73331.xml

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Medical Doctor and the founder of Rubus Health, a women’s medicine clinic that specializes in women's hormones. She is recognized as a leading expert in Post-Birth Control Syndrome and the long-term side effects associated with hormonal contraceptives. Dr. Brighten is the best selling author, speaker and regular contributor to several online publications including MindBodyGreen. She is a medical advisor for one of the first data-driven apps to offer women personalized birth control recommendations.