Prenatal stress can program a child’s brain for later health issues

When a woman is exposed to intense or prolonged stress during pregnancy, excessive levels of cortisol can disrupt development of the unborn child’s brain. 

(Laura Williamson/ Heart Org) — Soaring blood pressure. A racing heartbeat. Trouble sleeping. Excessive worrying. Difficulty concentrating. These are warning signs of out-of-control stress and anxiety, and their roots could begin long before you might think.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting nearly 1 in 5 adults, or 40 million people. Another 19 million adults – 8% of the population – has depression. Both can harm heart and brain health.

While the causes of these disorders are not fully understood, researchers believe at least some of the architecture of mental health begins long before adulthood. And a growing number of studies show it can begin in the womb. High levels of maternal stress during pregnancy can predispose a developing fetus to psychiatric and cardiovascular illnesses decades later. (…)

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