Healthy, happy mama means healthy, happy baby

The importance of staying healthy and happy when you are pregnant.

The emotional well-being of the mother could directly impact the health of her baby.
The emotional well-being of the mother could directly impact the health of her baby.

Michigan State University Extension has reliable information about the importance of healthy nutrition during pregnancy and how that can have positive effects on a developing baby. Most people are aware of the importance of taking pre-pregnancy vitamins, increasing folic acid and drinking lots of water. In addition, every year there seems to be more information about the adverse and potentially dangerous effects of smoking, drinking and all types of drug use during pregnancy. While this information is focused on the physical health of expectant moms and developing babies, there are other things researchers are starting to look at, including the emotional health of pregnant moms and the subsequent effects on a developing baby. 

In the latest issue of the Zero to Three Journal there are several articles on the topic of prenatal influences on child development. Researchers at Harvard University suggest that experiences that occur before birth can affect the development during infancy and childhood. In particular, when a pregnant mom is stressed, it increases the amount of stress on the fetus which can negatively influence a child’s emotional regulation, cognitive functioning and brain development. This is because development during the fetal period is more rapid than any other stage of life.

In addition to stress, another condition considered is pregnancy anxiety, or worrying about the health of the baby and childbirth. Pregnancy anxiety is considered a risk factor for pre-term birth. Although it is normal to have some anxiety during pregnancy, the type that is most concerning is when it interferes with your normal daily activities. Anxiety issues are more common than you might think and there is help available if you need it. Expectant mothers may want to seek a counselor or a therapist who is familiar with techniques that can make anxiety of any kind more manageable. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America is an excellent resource.

Recent evidence suggests that not only stress and anxiety, but also depression in pregnancy can increase the risk of having a child with emotional, behavioral or cognitive problems. It is thought that the stress hormone cortisol passes through the placenta to the baby, and in turn can affect the babies developing brain. More research is needed to study the way this happens and to find ways to develop interventions that will improve child outcomes. If you or someone you care about seems to be suffering from depression while they are pregnant, it is important to call a medical professional or encourage them to call. A reliable resource on maternal health is Women’s Health.Gov. You will find information on depression, the symptoms and where to go for help.

During my first pregnancy, I was young and very worried about my baby and giving birth. My wise Aunt Marcia told me, to stop worrying and be happy. She told me to concentrate on sending love messages to my baby. She said, “Write ‘I love you baby’ on cookies and then eat them.” I took her advice and started thinking happier, positive thoughts and eating cookies of course. Turns out, it was very good advice. Healthy, happy mama equals healthy, happy baby! 

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