For this week’s topic, I want to highlight how the emotional well-being of the mother affects her child’s health.
The Effect of a Loving Environment on Early Brain Growth
The first 24 months are crucial for building and shaping an infant’s brain. An infant raised in a loving, warm, and responsive environment will have better outcomes in how their orbitofrontal cortex is shaped. Furthermore, research for the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) has demonstrated that if a child in an institution is adopted or fostered into a loving environment within its first 2 years of life, development improves from previous lack of growth.
When one feels loved, it has a positive effect on the amount of human growth hormone and oxytocin produced, which also encourages a healthy brain.
Hamilton, D. Why Children Need Love to Grow. drdavidhamilton.com. March 16, 2014.
Stress May Be Contagious?
Moms that are stressed can spread the negative physiological changes to their babies, according to a UC San Francisco-led study. The study compared 69 infant-mother pairs who were placed in stressful social evaluation, positive social evaluation, or control conditions. The researchers found that the mothers’ experience correlated to the infants’ by measuring heart rate variability of the infant-mother pairs.
Bunim, M. Is Stress Contagious? Study Shows Babies Can Catch It from Their Mothers. UCSF. February 6, 2014.
Waters, S, West, T, Mendes, WB. Stress Contagion Physiological Covariation Between Mothers and Infants (abstract). Psychological Science. January 30, 2014. doi: 10.1177/0956797613518352
Stress & Fertility in Women
Finally, in a study of 500 couples, researchers compared alpha-amylase salivary levels to determine if
stress played a role in women becoming pregnant. Health Day reports:
Of the approximately 400 couples who completed the study, 87 percent of the women became pregnant. After adjusting for age, race, income and the use of alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes, the researchers found that the women with the highest alpha-amylase levels had a 29 percent lower probability of pregnancy compared to the women who had the lowest levels of the enzyme.
Marcus, MB. Stress May Diminish a Woman’s Fertility. Study Suggests. Health Day.
I will be further exploring the role of social bonding on health outcomes in next week’s blog. This week, I reviewed the power of a paradigm shift in medicine to include these mind-body and social connections discussed above.