Anxious mothers imperil babies

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The Independent Online
A MOTHER'S psychological state can influence the growth of her unborn baby, doctors have found.

Worry during pregnancy may hinder the development of the baby by restricting the blood supply to the womb, according to a study. The effect could be important because smaller babies are at greater risk of developing chronic diseases in later life.

It is known that anxious women tend to have smaller babies. Researchers at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, west London, believe they can explain why. They studied 100 pregnant women and found those with high levels of anxiety as measured by a standard psychological test also had abnormal patterns of blood flow through the uterine arteries, seen on ultrasound.

Dr Jeronima Teixeira and colleagues say in the British Medical Journal that the most likely explanation for the mechanism is that high levels of adrenaline in the blood restrict blood flow to the uterus (and other organs) to ensure a maximum supply for the muscles - the "fight or flight" effect.

"It may be that in times of stress the mother has evolved to protect herself at the expense of her foetus," they write.