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Stress During Pregnancy Causes Children to Age Faster

pregnancy stress, stress during pregnancy

Relax, mama!

As if being twice your normal size isn’t enough reason to take it easy during pregnancy…

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that “children born to women who experience unusual levels of psychological or social stress during pregnancy are more likely to show signs of accelerated aging than other children,” according to Gawker site io9.  You hear that Type A’s?  No need to freak about about creating the perfect nursery while you’re cooking baby, unless you want him to age more rapidly than his peers.

io9 says the accelerated aging is caused by shorter telomere length.  “Telomeres are the stretches of DNA that cap and protect the ends of your chromosomes,” Robert T. Gonzalez writes. Higher maternal stress is correlated with shortened telomeres in children, and “the shorter your telomeres become, the faster your cells age,” he says. Shortened telomeres “are associated with premature mortality and diseases commonly related to old age, including diabetes, dementia, cancer, and coronary heart disease.”

“Every time your cells divide, your telomeres get incrementally shorter,” according to Gonzalez. But researchers at UC Irvine discovered that in 25-year-olds whose mothers had experienced stressful pregnancies, the telomeres of the men looked the way a 28-year-old’s should and the telomeres of the women looked the way a 30-year-old’s should.  (I wonder if the shortening problem in children of stressed-out moms increases exponentially with age or is a one-time deal from birth.)  Of course there are other genetic factors that contribute to your child’s predisposition toward disease, but if you can help your baby develop longer telomeres by being chill while knocked up, go for it.  Tell your doctor to prescribe a pre-natal massage and a vacay, stat.

Photo via Flickr

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