Did you know trauma and stress during pregnancy changes your baby’s DNA. And those changes are passed down with each generation after. A group of scientists looked at babies born during the Dutch Hunger Winter, an extended period of famine that took place towards the end of World War II when the Nazis blocked food supplies in October 1944. What they found is shocking.
Scientists found that those who had been in utero during the famine were a few pounds heavier than average. (The thinking goes that the mothers, because they were starving, automatically quieted a gene in their unborn children involved in burning the body’s fuel.) When the children reached middle age, they had higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They also suffered higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia. When scientists looked into why, they found that these children carried a specific chemical mark—an epigenetic signature—on one of their genes.
While much of Yehuda’s work has focused on the children of Holocaust survivors, she also observed that infants born to mothers who were pregnant on 9/11 had low cortisol levels, which were associated with the presence of maternal PTSD. Again, more evidence for the theory of epigenetics. Even still, she says it is “premature” to conclude that trauma can cause heritable changes and worries that research may create a bleak narrative that one generation’s trauma may permanently scar future generations.
Can trauma be passed down from one generation to the next? By Karina Margit Erdelyi
Stress can affect baby’s neurodevelopment too…
A new study published this year has shown links between maternal psychological distress and delayed infant neurodevelopment. Babies whose mothers experienced stress and anxiety had altered brain structure. They found these babies to be struggling with social interactions and relationships at 18 months, and issues with cognitive skills and language.
Given the trauma of the past 2 years thanks to COVID, and ongoing stress of restrictions, and the ever increasing cost of living crisis, I wonder how much our government has to answer for in terms of long term damage to our future generation’s health.
If you haven’t considered hypnobirthing during pregnancy, you may want to look in to what it is and how the techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety. The breathing techniques I teach activate the vagus nerve and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, helping reduce stress, anxiety and the hormones that are produced in stressful situations. If you’d like to find out more join my next free hypnobirthing Q&A. Register on the events page!