Stress and anxiety whilst during pregnancy or after birth (post-natal) can have a profound effect on the baby. Some stress and anxiety in pregnancy is normal and usual and positive stress (excitement) can be motivating, but chronic (continual) negative stress can sometimes affect the way an unborn baby grows and develops.
For example research suggests that negative stress can be passed to the foetus causing newborns to be more irritable and prone to crying (van der Wal et al 2007). Even as a newborn, her baby may be more fearful and may have higher than average cortisol levels at 4 months.

For mums who are in the top 15% of anxious mums during the latter stages of pregnancy, their babies are more likely to grow up with behavioural and emotional problems or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

This risk of problems only increases when the stress becomes constant and severe, you feel like you are not in control of any problems you may have in your life and you do not receive help for it. These problems are not inevitable, even if you have experienced chronic severe stress.

But if you feel like you are overwhelmed, not in control of your problems and do not receive the help that you need, the constant and severe stress you experience can increase the risk. This is why it is important that you get help to reduce your stress level. Looking at your sources of stress and talking them through, either with a midwife, friend, family member, colleague or health professional can help you to cope. See the resources on this website, including considering talking to one of our counsellors.