Prenatal stress may accelerate offspring’s biological aging
Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles have found evidence that maternal stress adversely affects the length of a baby's telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been linked to a higher risk of cancers, cardiovascular and other diseases, and earlier death.
The study followed 111 mothers and their children from preconception into early childhood. Between the ages of 3 and 5, the children provided cell samples from inside their cheeks, from which the researchers extracted DNA, including telomeres. The childhood telomere length was compared with the stress measurements taken while the children were in utero.
A second UCLA-led study from the same research group found that women suffering from high stress during the months and even years before conception had shorter pregnancies than other women. The researchers found that women who were exposed to the lowest or highest amounts of stress in their environment had the shortest pregnancies, while women who had a moderate level of environmental stress before conception had the longest pregnancies. The authors speculate that a moderate amount of stress in utero may help prepare the developing fetus for the environment to come, especially if the mother has developed effective coping strategies. This study is among the first to point out that a mother's psychosocial health before conception matters for her birth outcomes.
Read more: Carroll, J.E. et al. (2020) Prenatal maternal stress prospectively relates to shorter child buccal cell telomere length. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 121. doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2020.104841
Mahrer, N.E. et al. (2020) Maternal Stress Before Conception Is Associated with Shorter Gestation.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine, kaaa047.