How Stress Experienced by Pregnant Women Can Have Long-Lasting Impact on Their Offspring

gur2A new study led by Tamar Gur, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health, neuroscience, and obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University, finds that stress experienced by pregnant women can alter the microbiome of their babies with effects that can be passed on to future generations.

The research conducted on mice found that mothers subjected to stress experienced a change in the bacteria that occurred in their gut and placenta. These bacterial changes were also found in the intestines of their offspring and these changes persisted as the offspring reached adulthood. The offspring were shown to have higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of cognitive health than the offspring of mice mothers who were not subjected to stress while pregnant.

Dr. Gur found that the offspring of mice mothers who were subjected to stress during pregnancy “were more anxious, they spent more time in dark, closed spaces and they had a harder time learning cognitive tasks even though they were never stressed after birth.”

Previous studies have found associations between maternal stress in both animals and people to later mental health and behavioral problems in their offspring. This study shows that changes in bacteria could be a significant factor. “We already understand that prenatal stress can be bad for offspring, but the mystery is how,” said Dr. Gur. If changes in bacteria are to blame, the potential is there to correct the situation through the use of probiotics.

Dr. Gur earned her medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Filed Under: Research/StudyWomen's Studies

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