Toxic stress in pregnancy may lead to child behavioral issues

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- A good diet, exercise and plenty of sleep are all vital for expectant mothers to have a healthy pregnancy.

Now researchers are adding another important component: toxic stress control.

"This is more than the typical stress," psychiatrist Dr. Catherine Monk explained. "This is really chronic depression or anxiety, really feeling a tremendous lack of support."

According to researchers, a mother's relationship with her baby begins almost at the point of conception. At three weeks old the embryo forms a neural groove, the foundation of a baby's brain structure.

At the Simms/Mann Institute Think Tank, Monk spoke to educators and healthcare providers about how chronic stress during pregnancy can lead to neurobehavioral issues in unborn children, including attention deficit disorder, conduct problems and depression.

"It's one of many factors that can put that child at risk, but so importantly it's a preventable factor," Monk said.

In response, she created an intervention program called PREPP, which stands for Practical Resources for Effective Postpartum Parenting.

It is included in the prenatal visits for some doctors' offices. There, women learn how to identify toxic stress and discover strategies to deal with it.

"We're really using mindfulness and also what's called psychoeducation because we do better the more we can anticipate challenges," Monk said.

The goal is to provide learning tools during pregnancy to reduce the chances of postpartum depression.
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