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Stress during pregnancy could affect the infant’s gut microbiota

Posted:  Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Native wisdom demands that pregnant women be shielded from stress and negative instances. The findings of a recent study have reinforced this faith; maternal stress has been strongly correlated with poor intestinal microbiota composition and higher incidence of intestinal problems and allergic reactions in infants.

The study measured the stress and anxiety levels of pregnant mothers by employing questionnaires and saliva testing for the hormone cortisol. Faecal samples from 56 babies were also tested after birth (from 7 days until 4 months). The results of this study were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The researchers took breastfeeding and postnatal stress into account while analysing the results. They found that mothers who reported high stress levels and presented high cortisol levels during pregnancy had infants with greater Proteobacteria and fewer lactic acid bacteria and Actinobacteria in their gut. The presence of these bacteria could be linked to the higher incidence of intestinal problems and allergic reactions among the infants who were part of this research.

The researchers reiterated the strong correlation between maternal stress and the skewed microbial composition in infants saying, “We think that our results point towards a possible mechanism for health problems in children of mothers who experience stress during pregnancy. Giving other bacteria would probably benefit these children's development.” Thus, staying stress free during pregnancy is the best bet to ensure a healthy offspring.

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