Relaxed through pregnancy

September 11, 2020

A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have been able to show that maternal psychological wellbeing during pregnancy has a positive effect on newborn infants. Increased telomere length suggests a reduced rate of cell aging, which could have an effect on children's future health. Results from this study have been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry*.

A variety of pregnancy-related factors can have an impact on child development. Until now, researchers had primarily focused on the negative effects of stress, excess weight and poor nutrition - and how these might affect, say, placental function, premature birth and children's general health. At the cellular level, various pregnancy-related factors can have a direct impact on 'telomeres', cellular structures which protect the ends of chromosomes during cell division and can be lengthened by the enzyme telomerase. Telomere length is a molecular biology marker of cell aging which is linked to life expectancy and a range of age-related disorders. Although the effects of maternal stress have been widely studied, data on protective maternal factors and their positive effects on child development remain limited.

A group of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Sonja Entringer of Charité's Institute of Medical Psychology have been able to show that the mother's ability to cope with stress during pregnancy - her 'psychological resilience' - is linked to telomere length. The more positive a mother's attitude during pregnancy, the longer the children's telomeres. "Positive maternal psychological characteristics are biologically embedded and have a protective effect on the fetus," says Prof. Entringer.  

In an earlier study, the researchers examined the way in which maternal stress during pregnancy affects telomere length in their offspring. The current study, which saw Prof. Entringer's team work with a team of researchers led by Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California and colleagues in Finland, had access to a large study population comprising 650 mother and child pairs. Telomere length was determined at birth, using cells from cord blood. Positive attitude in the face of stress was determined using a 'resilience index', which also took into account the pregnant women's psychological wellbeing and perceived social support.

"This study underlines the importance of maternal psychological wellbeing during pregnancy in terms of the developmental programming of lifelong health and disease, and the significance of improved psychosocial support measures during pregnancy," explains Prof. Entringer, who is also an Associate Professor at the University of California. Prof. Entringer was awarded a European Research Council 'Starting Grant' in 2016, which enabled her to set up and develop her own research group. The researchers are currently conducting more detailed investigations into the molecular mechanisms underlying the biological embedding of psychosocial effects in the cells of unborn children. As a next step, they are planning to conduct an interventional study on stress reduction in the day-to-day lives of pregnant women.
-end-
*Verner G et al. Maternal psychological resilience during pregnancy and newborn telomer length: a prospective study. Am J Psychiatry (2020), DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19101003

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Related Stress Articles from Brightsurf:

Stress-free gel
Researchers at The University of Tokyo studied a new mechanism of gelation using colloidal particles.

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS

How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.

Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.

Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.

Read More: Stress News and Stress Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.