We have all heard that stress can get us sick, but have you ever heard how, or why, that happens? Is it from the mental exhaustion? Is it from our adrenal glands? What happens that makes us go from stressed out to seriously sick?
That certainly was a lot of questions. Here is just one more.
If you were ever pregnant, did you hear over and over again how you should not let yourself get too stressed out? I sure did. So many times. They said it might make me go into early labor. They said it might harm the baby.
Of course, it did not help that I had a crazy stressful pregnancy and everyone around me was telling me to stay calm. On the plus side, I did not punch any of them in the face. If you knew how stressed out I was, you would call that a win too.
Researchers have been wondering if exposures to environmental stressors (particularly in combination) are part of the reason that rate of disorders such as autism have increased.
Until now, it has not been known just how much these stressors have impacted the cells of a developing brain. It turns out that when mothers are exposed to certain stressors, they can actually activate a trigger in the brain that can activate conditions such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some forms of autism in offspring.
This trigger may permanently change how brain cells respond, making that child more susceptible to these disorders later in life. So all those people were right. Stress while pregnant can possibly induce vulnerable cells in the brain to malfunction.
You can read the study report in its entirety from Children’s National Hospital.