A mother’s early life experiences of adversity can influence her baby’s sensitivity to stress

Over the past few decades, it’s become clear that experiences even before birth influence later psychological wellbeing. A mother’s stress levels during pregnancy have emerged as a key influence. Greater stress seems to programme her child to “expect” a difficult environment, and so to be more sensitive to potential threats — and more vulnerable to developing an anxiety disorder. It’s uncertain, though, whether adversity earlier in life affects stress levels during pregnancy, and so might impact the child’s sensitivity to stress. So Cassandra L. Hendrix at New York University and colleagues set out to investigate. Continue reading →

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