Stress does a lot to our bodies, but it can also affect your baby as well. Stress is a broad term used to describe the physical and emotional strain that can often have an adverse effect on our health in general. Though stress is widespread there are some things you can do as a parent to lessen physical and emotional stressso that your child will not feel the effects.

Physical stress, like smoking, diet, and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause your unborn child to be more likely to contract chronic diseases in the future. Harvard researchers have conducted a study to determine whether or not epigenetic mechanisms contribute to chronic disease susceptibility already prior to birth, and their findings suggest that there is indeed a relationship between prenatal stress and chronic illness.

"For a long time, doctors have considered fetal stress as a symptom of serious familial disease," said Gerald Weissmann, the Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Now, we see that fetal stress is in and of itself a long-term risk factor for chronic disease: it changes the way we inherit genes from our parents."

The conclusions of the study found that not only are infants affected by stress, but the stress they are exposed to actually changes their genes.

To make this discovery, Dr. Karin Michels, the author of the study from Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined the expression pattern of imprinted genes that are significant for development and growth. Researchers analyzed the parental expression pattern found in the cord blood and placenta of more than 100 infants and pursued the investigation with methylation and expression investigations.

The outcomes gave credibility to the developing theory that susceptibility to infection may indeed begin before birth. In addition to this, this study displayed that a high degree of disturbance appeared throughout the imprinting of a gene called IGF2, which was conveyed from both alleles in the cord blood of 22% of study subjects.

Loss of imprinting of IGF2 has been affiliated with some cancers, including Wilms Tumor, colorectal and breast cancer, and childhood disorders like Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome.

The best way to avoid a stress-related risk of chronic illness and disease is to avoid as much stress as possible while pregnant for your health and your child’s. Eat a consistently healthy diet and absolutely refrain from drinking and smoking since these are very stressful on the body.


Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2013, August 1). Fetal stress disrupts the way genes are transmitted. ScienceDaily.