Stress and Pregnancy: Better Brains for Babies

Stress and Pregnancy: Better Brains for Babies

The fact that babies are affected by their environments is knowledge that bears little repeating. Decades of research show that a child’s early environment can have effects that last a lifetime. A common misconception, however, is that all child development occurs after a child is born. In reality, brain development begins while a baby is still in the womb.

For example, did you know that babies are affected by a mother’s emotions long before birth? While nutrients that make their way from mom’s mouth to baby are critical to a babies’ healthy development, emotional influences are also in play. Consider, for instance, a baby in the womb who is exposed to high levels of maternal stress and fear. Anxiety in the womb, due to the mother’s response to fighting or fear, primes a baby’s brain to repeat those anxiety responses in similar experiences after birth, and often years later. Taken another way, babies raised in calm, loving, and safe environments while they are still in the womb prime their brains to repeat those calm and loving behaviors as babies, children, and adults.

It’s about time that we pay attention to babies before they make their official entrance into the world. Just because we can’t see, hear, or touch babies while they’re in the womb, it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by our emotional experiences. With a highly-developed emotional brain, babies are born ready for relationships with those around them — and what they experience can have effects not only in the early years, but for many years to come.