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Autism: the serious risk of stress during pregnancy for the baby revealed by a new Spanish study

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A study carried out by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) has determined that the fact that the mother has high levels of stress during pregnancy increases the risk of giving birth to children who may suffer from autism, obesity and infant colic.

The study, published in the scientific journal Midwiferyhas been based on a sample made up of 65 million pregnant women and their newborns from different countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania.

To carry out this study, the researcher from the Nursing Department of the UGR Rafael Arcángel Caparrós González and the rest of the authors carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of more than 73,000 studies, of which 42 met the inclusion criteria.

The UGR researcher, Rafael Arcángel Caparrós González.

University of Granada

“Stress is one of the biggest toxins that can affect people’s health and illness. Specifically, during pregnancy, it has been associated with various negative consequences for both the pregnant woman and the unborn fetus,” Caparrós pointed out in a note from the UGR.

In this sense, high levels of stress during pregnancy are associated with a greater risk for pregnant women of suffering from Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or even psychopathological disorders such as postpartum depression.

Regarding the developing fetus, it is related to prematurity and low birth weight. But the effects of stress during pregnancy can last in the newborn throughout his lifethese effects even reaching adulthood.

“Thus, in this study what we have discovered is that stress during pregnancy, in addition to its effects on the pregnant woman and on the fetus during the pregnancy, its negative consequences can go beyond the pregnancy and affect a child’s or girl develops autism, has obesity throughout her life, or develops infant colic,” said the lead author of the study.

How is it possible that stress during pregnancy affects the development of diseases in babies even after they are born? The UGR researcher has pointed out that the psychological stress of the mother during pregnancy can cross the placenta and reach the fetus that is developing and growing in the mother’s womb.

“This mechanism is possible through different pathways and they all begin with high levels of stress during pregnancy. Maternal psychological stress is capable of altering the levels of different components, such as the stress hormone cortisol, or neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, involved in the development and functioning of the brain,” Caparrós indicated.

Furthermore, the psychological stress of a pregnant woman can influence the bacteria that normally live in the maternal intestine (microbiota) and that intervene in the intestine-brain pathway of the mother and baby, also related to metabolic processes such as obesity. , with inflammatory bowel disorders (possibly associated with infant colic) and with brain maturity and the appearance of psychopathological disorders in offspring.

“There are several mechanisms by which a pregnant woman’s stress can affect the health and illness of her newborns throughout life. In this study, we have found a relationship with several health states (autism, obesity and infant colic), although the list could be longer,” the researcher concluded.

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