Stress during pregnancy could affect your child's biological clock

Stress during pregnancy could affect your child

The stress that some mothers experience during pregnancy could, according to researchers, affect the biological clock of the unborn child, which may lead to early aging.

This was yound in study by the Central Institute of Mental Health of Heidelberg University in Germany, published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

In the study, 319 newborn babies and 318 mothers participated. The mothers received questions about their lifestyle and the amount of stress they experienced. They were also asked if they had a mental disorder, or had had in the past.

Less influence on girls

The investigation then found that the children of mothers who had stress disorder during pregnancy had a disturbed biological clock. The children of mothers who suffered mental illness throughout their lives did not appear to show disturbances in the biological clock.

It also turned out that the effect of stress in the mother has less influence on girls' development than boys.


The influence of stress on human aging can be determined, inter alia, by measuring telomeres. Telomeres are pieces of DNA that become shorter during cell divisions. As people grow older, the telomeres shorten into the DNA, serving as an indication of the biological clock.

By measuring the length of telomeres (TL), researchers can measure to what extent biological aging has taken place as a result of the stress a pregnant woman has experienced during pregnancy.

What the precise effects of shortened telomeres for health at a later age are not known yet. "But our findings underline the need to support women at increased risk of stress during pregnancy," said one of the researchers.

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