The Effects of Terrorism-Stress on Pregnant Women and their Offspring

The Effects of Terrorism-Stress on Pregnant Women and their Offspring


“Literature shows that stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on offspring. The purpose of this paper is to examine the possible connections between terrorism, stress reactions of the mother and its effect on the offspring of pregnant women exposed to terrorism. The main focus is on PTSD as the predominant reaction to terrorism and how it affects pregnancy. Coping strategies are reviewed as well.

The link between stress during pregnancy and pregnancy results has been studied not only in animals. Several studies in this area have been undertaken with human subjects.

During ultrasound observation fetuses of highly anxious woman have been found more active than those of low anxious woman. (Van den Bergh et all, 1990). In her longitudinal study Alessandra Piontelli (1992) observed the behavior of several children from very early stages in the womb, through birth, infancy and childhood.

One of her observations was that stressful mothers were more likely to have an unquiet fetus that turn to an undeveloped child later on. Some studies performed 2-3 days after birth, have demonstrated that newborn infants cry more and are difficult to sooth if their mothers were more anxious, had more depressive symptoms or were classified as a type A mother (flurried, impatient and competitive) during pregnancy.

Van den Berg (1990) followed-up 70 mother-infant pairs from the first trimester of pregnancy to the age of 9 years. Observations of fetal behavior at 36 weeks gestational age (using ultrasound) showed that babies of high anxious women had more body activity than babies of low anxious woman.

During the first 7-month after birth, these babies exhibited the following behavioral characteristic more frequently: crying, irritability, and irregularity of biological functions, gripes, and difficult temperament. At the age of 9, these children showed more attention deficits, had more problems with inhibition of difficult behavior and were more aggressive.

Huizink et all, (2002) Examined in a prospective study, whether maternal stress during pregnancy is related to infant temperament. The results of the study showed that increased maternal prenatal stress is associated with temperamental variation of young infants and may be a risk factor for psychopathology later in life. Stress and negative emotions have been identified as causal factors in negative birth outcomes such as low birth-weight and pre-term delivery (Lobel, 1994).”

The Effects of Terrorism-Stress on Pregnant Women and their Offspring (Extract)
By Yaara Benitzhak and Thomas Verny, M D, D Psych., FRCPC

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