The link between ADHD and stress in pregnancy

ADHD and stress in pregnancy

High levels of stress during pregnancy have been associated with the development of ADHD in children.

For most women, at some stage or another being pregnant = being stressed out.  Even in the ideal scenario where both you and your partner are super happy and excited about the pregnancy, it’s pretty common for a variety or fears and stressful thoughts to pop into your head from time to time.  Will you make a good parent?  Will you be able to make ends meet once the baby has arrived?  Could that night of heavy partying before you found out you were pregnant have affected your baby? And so the list goes on and on…

Add to that the usual stressed and strains of our busy lives and the fact that a recent study by researchers from Carnegie Melon University found that as a society our stress-levels have “skyrocketed” since the 1980’s and it seems alarmingly more likely that a high percentage of expectant women might be under severe, chronic stress during their pregnancies.

Now, a new study has found that stress during pregnancy might make children more susceptible to developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later in life.  Bea van der Bergh and her colleagues from Belgium’s Catholic University of Leeuven studies 71 mothers and their children from pregnancy to early childhood and found a very strong link between maternal stress levels during early pregnancy and the development of ADHD in the children.

Ironically the last thing pregnant women should do – is stress about this! Several experts have expressed a concern that this research may place excessive blame (and added stress) on the mother and have all emphasized that this is very much a societal problem and that it is up to all of us to figure out how to protect pregnant mothers and their babies from stress.  Some have suggested that employed mothers should be allowed to take maternity leave from earlier on in their pregnancies and not merely after the birth of the baby.  Yet others have suggested that well-known stress relieving activities such as pre-natal yoga and massage should become more freely available to pregnant women.  Whatever your take on all this – one thing seems clear to me – pregnant mothers should be able to reserve the right to slow down and to ask to be excluded from highly stressful environments at least for the duration of their pregnancies.  

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