Stress during pregnancy can lead to lifelong health problems

Unborn babies who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have health problems in the rest of their lives. In addition, evidence has been found for a disrupted development of the neonatal brain. Dr. Daniël van den Hove from Maastricht University tells during the Public Day of the Brain Foundation what researchers from various institutes now know about the consequences of stress during pregnancy.

Providing consequences

Changes in the fetal environment can have far-reaching consequences on mental health in later life. For example, stressful events and also, for example, depression in pregnant women have been shown to influence the developing progeny. As a result, the offspring has a higher risk of psychological problems. However, the exact mechanisms responsible for the effects of stress before birth (prenatal stress) on mental functioning as an adult are still unknown. More research on these processes can bring a suitable treatment method for related mental disorders closer.

Lowered birth weight

It has also been established that prenatal stress may result in decreased birth weight. The baby then has a greater chance of health problems in later life. In addition, evidence has been found for a disrupted development of the neonatal brain. The processes that normally take care of the growth and specialization of the brain are disrupted. Such changes during early development may contribute to an increased risk of mental problems in adulthood.
Finally, researchers have found indications that the use of the antidepressant paroxetine during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the offspring after years. To what extent, is further investigated.

Daniël van den Hove

Daniël van den Hove (1978) has been a researcher and lecturer at the department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology at Maastricht University since 2002. He graduated in 2001 as a medical biologist at the University of Amsterdam. He then did PhD research at Maastricht University, where he obtained his doctorate in 2006 on the subject of 'prenatal stress and adult psychopathology'. In addition to his research and teaching position in Maastricht, he has also been working as a researcher in the department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the University of Würzburg in Germany since 2007. Since then he has focused more specifically on gene-environment interactions as a biological model for the development of psychiatric disorders.

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