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Maternal Stress in Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Development

Interruption of the mental status of the mother during pregnancy and its effects on the unborn child is today a subject of great concern. Most of the studies that seek to ascertain the relationship between prenatal anxieties and the child’s subsequent growth are often subjected to a lot of criticism as they fail to justify their findings. This is because other factors also play a significant role in a child’s development. Although it is quite challenging to differentiate stress from other personality qualities of the mother, there is also no link between cortisol and the determinants of the psychological distress experienced by the mother. In view of these methodological elements, DiPietro (2012) provides another approach concentrating on the neuro character of the fetus to identify some of the techniques that may bridge the relationship between the psychological status of the mother and the growing nervous system of the fetus.

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The study seeks to find out if the development of the nervous system of the fetus is closely influenced by the psychological wellbeing of the mother. The measurable hypothesis is that children are likely to grow and develop fully, in a healthy manner, if they are born to emotionally and psychologically stable mothers.

The null hypothesis (H0) states that fetuses of highly stressed mothers do not indicate any abnormal developments any more or less than those of emotionally healthy or less stressed mothers. Consequently, the alternative hypothesis (H1) is children born to expectant mothers who experience excessive psychological stress during pregnancy are as a result, more likely to have developmental challenges (DiPietro, 2012).

The dependent variable is neurobehavioral fetal development; this is the factor that relies on other variables in the study. This factor in this case is ascertained by considering variables such as heart rate, motor function and the way they relate or coexist over time. The neurobehavioral development manifests maturation and exhibits personal differences. Stress is the independent variable in the study since it can be manipulated directly in the mother’s body after which its effects on the development of the fetus can be ascertained (DiPietro, 2012).

The data used in this study was qualitative in nature; it was measured nominally by looking at the properties and characteristics of neurobehavioral fetal development. Two different samples, psychologically distressed and otherwise healthy prenatal and postnatal mothers, were measured using an experimental design where a fetal motor reaction was produced using external stimuli. This evoked a maternal physiological reaction that conformed to previous responses (DiPietro, 2012). As soon as it was discovered that the psychological condition of the mother is controlled, the fetal response was observed. Fetuses of women with higher cortisol levels were more active although the study could not discover convincing relations between cortisol levels and maternal anxiety.

Similarly, highly distressed mothers were found to have fetuses with a higher heart rate variability and were more inclined to having somatic cardiac connections toward birth; this is an indication of neurological maturation. Greater levels of prenatal stress were closely related to higher developmental scores and manipulating postnatal stress did not change the relationship between the fetus’ development and the mother’s psychological status (DiPietro, 2012). Looking at various scenarios, it was discovered that they way expectant mothers respond to stress may affect the developing fetus. As opposed to what was expected, interventions such as induced relaxation lowered the psychological and physiological stress experienced by the mother.

Reference

DiPietro, J. A. (2012). Maternal stress in pregnancy: considerations for fetal development. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 53-58.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 23). Maternal Stress in Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Development. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/maternal-stress-in-pregnancy-effects-on-fetal-development/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, June 23). Maternal Stress in Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Development. https://studycorgi.com/maternal-stress-in-pregnancy-effects-on-fetal-development/

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Maternal Stress in Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Development." June 23, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/maternal-stress-in-pregnancy-effects-on-fetal-development/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Maternal Stress in Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Development'. 23 June.

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