It is believed in our society that, “A Women is complete, when she gives birth to a child”. Pregnancy is one of the most delightful, yet the most crucial phase of her life. It is important that, both the mother and child are comforted and protected with utmost care and sensitivity.
In a male dominated society, where women are treated as tools to give birth to child, it is seen that, 1 in 4 women experiences physical abuse during pregnancy. Studies have revealed that 28% of battered women demonstrated violent behaviour toward their children. . As many as one third of women presenting to emergency departments are victims of abuse, yet as few as 1 in 20 abused women is identified by physicians. Alas! The shocking statistics forces us to pause for a second and rethink, and answer the question: WHY?
From time immemorial, it is proven that pregnant women and the environment around which they live in, has a huge impact on the growth of a child and the mother. A positive and healthy environment is a prerequisite during pregnancy, for both mother and child. What a child looks like and how it will behave are, to a certain extent determined by the genes that the child inherits from its parents. But child’s environments also play a role in which they will ultimately exist, and that environment starts in the womb.
Most expectant mothers are warned from drinking alcohol, smoking and even eating unpasteurized food and are instructed not to be in any such ambiance, as it can have serious consequences for the growth and development of their unborn child.
“Seeds of health are planted even before you draw your first breath, and that the nine short months of life in the womb shape your health as long as you live.” These words of Sharon Begley and William Underhill in a Newsweek article Shaped By Life In The Womb eloquently describe the importance of the gestational period on an individual for his or her life-time.
In the Nineties, research found how the stress and mother’s emotional state affects her unborn baby. Take, for example, a stress hormone called Cortisol. When we are under stress, we manufacture cortisol. If mother experiences occasional stress, cortisol doesn’t cause any adverse effects. However, if she remains under stress for a long time, the cortisol may be too much for her body to handle. Cortisol can cause high blood pressure problems. A mother’s excessive Cortisol can reach the baby in the womb and raise the baby’s set point for blood pressure forever. This baby, when it reaches adulthood, is most likely to suffer from high blood pressure.
Many mothers during pregnancy face extremely traumatic conditions. They are challenged with emotionally unhealthy situations such as the break-up of their marriage, physical or emotional abuse, open infidelity or simply disinterested and uninvolved partners who prefer staying out, than staying home and supporting their pregnant partners. These mothers experience constant stress, shame, loneliness and, sometimes, clinical depression during pregnancy or after giving birth.
The babies of these mothers are exposed to a variety of stress hormones, toxins and malnutrition inside the womb. Some of these babies will continue to live in the same or often worsening noxious environment. No wonder some will later become hyperactive, underactive, inattentive, or temperamental and exhibit poor self-control.
Not everyone understands that the problems a child exhibits today may have resulted from events that occurred several years ago. Thus, a woman in such a situation suffers alone and remains isolated from her support system. She is expected to transcend all such adverse circumstances, and some do. Others don’t have the emotional strengths to cope. Some have struggled with depression and anxiety all their lives. Moreover, even when they are seemingly coping with the excessive stress, they might still be constantly producing stress hormones and toxins and some will reach the baby in the womb.
Maternal stress during pregnancy is also found to cause of asymmetry in coordination of ears, fingers, feet, elbows, etc… in the child. As a result, I.Qs of such children are typically found to be lower. Maternal stress is also linked with imperfections in the developing nervous system which can lead to problems of perception, thinking, and memory.
Multiple studies and summaries of experience have demonstrated a need for regular screening to identify abused women. Women should be screened multiple times during pregnancy. Violence occurs across all socioeconomic classes, and no woman should forgo screening for any reason.
All of us want happy children. Happy children grow out of happy babies. Happy babies are born to happy mothers. Therefore, partners, families and friends of expectant mothers should do their best to make an expectant mother happy and relaxed. If she is depressed, nervous, or tense; encourage her to seek help.
For the child to have the right growth with right attitude in life, it is essential that the expectant mothers are bounded with most contented and peaceful environment.
P.S: Salute to all the mothers and expectant mothers… You are the glowing stars of this world…
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