Children, whose mothers were faced with a lot of stressful events during pregnancy, may encounter coordination problems as they grow older, a new study found.
Beth Hands, a professor of human movement at the University of Notre Dame Australia, believes that to minimise this risk, pregnant women shout join programs that are aimed at reducing maternal stress.
In the study – published October 14 in the journal Child Development – which involved 2,900 women in Australia, the researchers asked the participants whether they experienced any stressful events during pregnancy. The women were questioned two times: once at 18 weeks into pregnancy, and the second time at 34 weeks. Some examples of stressful events were divorce or separation, financial hardship, loss of a family member or friend.
The next step involved examining the women’s children. When they were ten, fourteen, and seventeen years old, the children were tested by the doctors on their ability to control their body movements and overall coordination. For instance, they were tested on how well they could stand on one foot, on the strength of their grip, and on how far they could jump.
The results of both studies combined, showed that the children whose mothers dealt with at least three stressful situations during pregnancy, received lower scores on the tests – when they were ten, fourteen, and seventeen years of age – compared with the children whose mothers experienced less than three stressful events during pregnancy.
Researchers also found that when stressful events took place later in pregnancy, they had a higher impact on the children’s coordination skills. It is possible that this occurred because the brain’s outer layer of neural tissue, called the cerebral cortex – which has motor areas that are involved in the execution movements – usually evolves in later pregnancy stages.
“[The ability to stand on one foot] may not necessarily matter much in life”, but riding a bicycle or buttoning buttons “those might be more real-world examples of motor deficits that affect people on a daily basis,” Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said.
Image Source: medscape