Prenatal Stress May Help With Baby’s Speech Development

While it is ideal to keep your blood pressure and stress levels low during pregnancy, parents fighting the chaos can breathe a sigh of relief that some stress might not be so bad for baby.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated June 2, 2023
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Time and time again, you’ll hear advisements to take it easy and reduce your stress when pregnant for the well-being of baby. For many, this is often easier said than done. Between work, taking care of any older kiddos and dealing with the many changes your body is going through—trying “not to stress” for the health of baby can feel stressful in and of itself. While, in an ideal world we’d find a way to lighten the load for mothers, until then a new study is seeking to give parents one less thing to stress about.

Researchers at Odense University Hospital recently discovered that higher cortisol levels (a stress hormone) during the third trimester of pregnancy may boost speech and language skills in early childhood.

For the study, scientists analyzed data on the cortisol levels of 1,093 Danish women during their third trimester of pregnancy and the speech and language skills of 1,093 Danish children aged 12-37 months, from the Odense Child Cohort.

The first of its kind to explore the prenatal cortisol and child speech development connection, scientists determined that boys exposed to high prenatal cortisol levels could articulate more words between the ages of 12-37 months, while girls were better at understanding more words at 12-21 months.

Outside of cortisol’s effects on speech development, researchers believe the study might have broader implications across a child’s educational trajectory. “Early language development in children is known as a predictor for a cognitive function later in life, such as attention, memory and learning, so we want to investigate whether prenatal cortisol exposure is also associated with IQ scores of children aged 7 years old,” Dr. Anja Fenger Dreyer a researcher involved in the study said at the 25th European Congress of Endocrinology.

So, even when it has been an extraordinarily stressful day or week, expectant moms can find peace of mind that even at their most stressed, they are still doing their best for baby. Still want to tamp down on your stress levels? Consider these 11 ways to destress during pregnancy.

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