Maternal Stress

In Act IV of King Henry VI a pregnant Queen Elizabeth, on learning of the imprisonment of her husband, says that she must stop her tears so that she doesn’t damage the heir to the English crown (Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 3, Act IV, Scene IV). Ancient Finnish folklore provides several proverbs about the effects of maternal trauma on the temperament and behavior of the offspring. These proverbs typically indicate that when pregnant women are stressed they will give birth to a shy and frightened child. In these proverbs the offspring of stressed mothers are compared to the shy and sensitive rabbit (Huttunen, personal communication).

Based on research findings and general medical opinion, the March of Dimes recommends that stress during pregnancy should be reduced (http://www.marchofdimes. com/professionals/681_1158.asp). This might be accomplished by having the mom-to-be devise a coping plan to deal with expected stresses, getting the proper amount of sleep, exercising, having a good social support network in place and practicing stress reduction techniques such as biofeedback, meditation, yoga or guided mental imagery.

On what research does the March of Dimes base this recommendation? Does ancient wisdom as represented by Shakespeare or Finnish folk wisdom hold up under the scrutiny of modern empirical and scientific methods? What is the quality of the research in this area? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Chapter 8.


Maternal Depression Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale Postpartum Depression Fetal Heart Rate Corticotrophin Release Hormone 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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