Stress in pregnancy and babies' health

Stress felt by expectant mothers during pregnancy can have significant implications for the well-being of the child. This is the suggestion of new research from Princeton University, which found the risk of a baby being born with abnormal health conditions increased when mums-to-be dealt with extreme weather conditions.

Janet Currie, Princeton's Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, cited hurricanes and tropical storms as examples of these instances.

Ms Currie noted: "Being subjected to stress in pregnancy has some negative effect on the baby, but that the effect is more subtle than some of the previous studies have suggested."

She carried out the investigation alongside doctoral candidate in the Department of Economics at Columbia University Maya Rossin-Slater and the pair also found little evidence to suggest stress associated with such extreme conditions impact a mother's behaviour with regard to smoking and eating.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Harriet Gross comments:

"These findings offer some interesting insight into the kinds of events that might be associated with maternal stress in pregnancy and perhaps with poorer health outcomes in newborn babies.

"Existing work by Vivette Glover and others has shown that babies born to pregnant women reporting higher levels of stress can have higher rates of emotional and cognitive problems in later childhood. However the mechanism for this effect is likely to be complex. women who are pregnant at the moment should not be overly concerned about the impact of recent storms in the UK and elsewhere."