Why reducing a pregnant woman’s toxic stress can improve the health of her unborn child

Why reducing a pregnant woman’s toxic stress can improve the health of her unborn child


JUDY WOODRUFF: Researchers are trying to better
understand the biology of stress and the many ways toxic stress can affect a child’s health. Stephanie Sy has a report produced by Yahoo
News about how frequent or prolonged adversity for a mother could affect the development
of the baby in the womb. STEPHANIE SY: When I met Lisa Thompson, like
me, she was five months pregnant. So, you’re due? LISA THOMPSON, Mother: December 5. STEPHANIE SY: Which is the same exact day
that I’m due. Congratulations. LISA THOMPSON: Thank you. STEPHANIE SY: Lisa is 18 years old, and, six
months earlier, had been homeless. How have you been doing as far as the stress
of pregnancy? LISA THOMPSON: I have had a lot of depression
a lot. So, me and the dad kind of — he’s happy about
it. He says he is going to be there. I’m worried that he is not going to be there. STEPHANIE SY: Did you think you would be doing
it on your own? LISA THOMPSON: No. I mean, I know my mom did it on her own when
she was pregnant with me. But it’s kind of scary, because I don’t want
my baby to have a life like that. I’m sorry. STEPHANIE SY: That’s OK. LISA THOMPSON: Because my dad wasn’t there
when I was born. And, basically, that’s all I know. STEPHANIE SY: Researchers now believe poverty
can begin in the womb, if a mother is exposed to toxic stress. DR. JACK SHONKOFF, Harvard University: When we
are stressed, our heart rate goes up, our blood pressure goes up. Stress hormones get released in our bloodstream. Toxic stress is when those systems are activated
most of the time. STEPHANIE SY: Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a renowned
expert on early childhood development, heads the center on the developing child at Harvard
University. DR. JACK SHONKOFF: Toxic stress is not about the
cause of the stress. It’s the biological response to the stress. And an environment that is fraught with stresses
affects gene expression. It affects how some genes turn on or turn
off. STEPHANIE SY: In utero? DR. JACK SHONKOFF: From the moment of conception
until the moment you die. STEPHANIE SY: In West Virginia, I have met
several moms in an effort to understand how the stresses of poverty might affect them,
their children and even their unborn babies. WOMAN: So, do not worry about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will bring worries of its own. STEPHANIE SY: At a food pantry held monthly
at Hope United Methodist Church, I meet Kristin. She asked that we not use her last name, but
shares a life story seemingly fraught with stress. KRISTIN, Mother: This is my daughter Skyler,
one of three. I have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. I got pregnant at 16. My mother and father were both addicts and
alcoholics. And I had a rough childhood. Hello? I’m at a church thing. STEPHANIE SY: So, clearly, you’re still struggling
financially. KRISTIN: Trying to get away from an abusive
guy. If you don’t believe me, you can talk with
— am I at the church right now? WOMAN: Yes, she is. STEPHANIE SY: Can you just tell me about the
stresses you were going through? Obviously, you were going through… KRISTIN: I was on Subutex when I was pregnant
with her. STEPHANIE SY: What is that? That’s for… KRISTIN: To get off opiates. (PHONE RINGING) KRISTIN: This is her dad calling. So, I’m really sorry, but I have got to go
pick him up from work. STEPHANIE SY: OK. KRISTIN: But she had had withdrawals. And I went through postpartum depression. I was alone. I didn’t have any support. My mom lives in Tennessee. I don’t have a lot of family, and my mom wasn’t
the greatest mom. So I strive to be what she wasn’t. DR. JACK SHONKOFF: We have studied resilience
in the face of poverty. One of the most important predictors of good
outcomes in the face of adversity is the presence of at least one reliable, responsive, protective
relationship with an important person. It can be a — and very often is a parent,
can be another family member, a grandparent. STEPHANIE SY: Shonkoff says this new biological
understanding suggests breaking the poverty cycle begins with pregnant moms and the right
kind of support. DR. JACK SHONKOFF: We’re already increasing the
likelihood that that next generation will do better. STEPHANIE SY: The science may be new, but
the national organization Nurse-Family Partnership has been putting it to practice for nearly
four decades. LORI ROGERS, Nurse-Family Partnership: OK,
we are headed out for our first visit. STEPHANIE SY: Nurses like Lori Rogers in Montgomery,
Alabama, pay home visits to first-time mothers, providing medical checkups and helping them
set goals. LORI ROGERS: One of the things about Nurse-Family
Partnership is to make sure that, hey, we’re asking, what do you want to do with your life? What’s important to you? WOMAN: Hey, good morning. LORI ROGERS: Good morning. We’re going to sit over here? WOMAN: Yes ma’am. OK. Look at this butterfly. Typically, our visit consists of asking how
they have been since we have been last here, whether they have been healthy, or — I try
to weigh Aubrey. I might get some measurements on her. We typically talk about Latrita, how’s her
job going. OK, well this is a daily job list. I thought I’d give you this and just see. There might be something there. WOMAN: Look at the bunny. STEPHANIE SY: The new science says doing the
type of thinking involved in goal-setting actually changes the brain, increasing executive
function, which is a key to societal success. ELISABETH BABCOCK, President and CEO, Economic
Mobility Pathways: When the work is done well, it helps to change brain wiring, so that the
individuals can basically become the navigators of their own lives. STEPHANIE SY: Beth Babcock is head of a program
based in Boston called EMPath, which uses the latest neuroscience to coach families
toward better outcomes. ELISABETH BABCOCK: We’re seeing families that,
when we work with them for three years or more, are almost doubling their incomes. The real process of helping people move out
of poverty is the process of standing beside and helping them see themselves and their
future in a different way. STEPHANIE SY: In a sense, it comes down to
love. Providing love may counter the toxic effects
of poverty-related stress, a surprisingly low-tech way to address what advanced brain
science has revealed. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Stephanie Sy. JUDY WOODRUFF: And to watch the complete documentary,
go to Yahoo.com/babybrain.

Related Posts

Brennan, Josh, & Zac’s Impression Challenge Returns | Game Changer [Full Episode]

Brennan, Josh, & Zac’s Impression Challenge Returns | Game Changer [Full Episode]

- [Sam] Get ready for a Game Changer! Tonight's guests, strutting in like he owns the place, it's Josh Ruben!

When my husband knew I was pregnant, he loved me even more!|ep27-1

How is the little miangua Good, you don't have to worry too much Mr. Chen visits her often He always

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *