According to a new research published in Biological Psychiatry, maternal stress before and during pregnancy could affect the offspring's brain development.
Researchers at the Kings College London investigated the association between maternal stress and brain development in 251 babies born prematurely. The mothers' experiences of stressful events ranging from everyday stress to more severe stressors were determined through a questionnaire. A severity of stress score was calculated based on the information and was related to the baby’s brain development. The white matter structure of the babies was analysed using a specialised imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging.
The findings revealed impaired development of a white matter tract called the uncinate fasciculus in the offspring of mothers who experienced a higher level of stress during the prenatal period.
Emphasising the importance of maternal mental health during pregnancy, the study author Alexandra Lautarescu, said: "Antenatal services need to be aware that it is important to think about stress of the mums and we need to have some kind of support there for the mums who identify that they are stressed."The authors call for further research to determine whether the observed changes in the brain development of the offspring could result in adverse outcomes later in life.