Don’t Freak Out But Pregnancy Stress May Prematurely Age Your Child

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This Wired report on a new scientific study is alarming. If you’re under stress during your pregnancy your child may grow up with “prematurely aged cells” and the associated health risks:

A comparison of 94 young adults found those subjected to prenatal stress tended to have white blood cells with shorter telomeres, the protein caps that prevent chromosome tips from fraying when cells divide.

Whether telomere shortening is a cause of aging’s ravages, or if age-related deterioration causes telomeres to shorten, isn’t known. Either way, shortening is linked to chronic disease risk and diminished longevity.

White blood cells of prenatally stressed adults “had aged the equivalent of approximately 3.5 additional years,” wrote researchers led by University of California, Irvine fetal development specialists Pathik Wadhwa and Sonja Entringer in an August 2 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study.

This is interesting, and puts some scientific meat on the bones of the conventional wisdom that stress is really bad for the health of a child. That said, I’d caution that sample size of 94 isn’t exactly huge and going from pregnancy stress to determining factors about a child’s eventual lifespan span is quite a leap. There would seem to be any number of lifestyle and environmental factors that might easily outweigh the contribution of short telomeres to a persons health.

That said, whether it simply increases the chances of miscarriage or some guy in a lab coat insists it damages your child at the cellular level, important reminder to take it easy when you’re pregnant, and this goes out to all the men out there — suck it up and treat your baby momma right for nine months. I don’t care if she has raging hormones and won’t let you bring any food into the house other than instant mashed potatoes due because her pregnancy-acquired super smell will make her vomit if you insist on one more Chipotle run.

If you care about the kid, don’t stress mom out. She’ll get around to apologizing for the hormone induced criticisms eventually, and you’ve only got nine months to do what you can to ensure that kid stays healthy.