Intergenerational Stress Waves: Can Stress Affect Unborn Children? Experts Weigh In


Neha Cadabam, senior psychologist, and executive director at Cadabams Hospitals, explained to that the transmission of stress can occur through biological, psychological, and social channels, affecting not just the individuals directly exposed to stressors but also their descendants.

Neurologist and content creator Dr. John Strugar highlighted, “Stress can have a significant impact on the amygdala, which is a key part of the brain involved in processing emotions, particularly fear and stress responses.”

He further explained that a mother’s stress during pregnancy can influence the developing brain of her baby. This impact stems from elevated levels of stress hormones, like glucocorticoids, which can alter the structure and function of certain brain regions, such as the amygdala.

Intergenerational Stress Waves: A Phenomenon Explained

Dr. John Strugar referred to this phenomenon as “intergenerational stress waves,” suggesting that stress isn’t just a personal experience – it can leave lasting imprints that ripple across generations.

Neha Cadabam stated, “This transmission (of stress) can occur through biological, psychological, and social channels, affecting not just the individuals directly exposed to stressors but also their descendants.”

She further added that these stress waves encompass the idea that experiences, particularly traumatic or stressful ones, can leave a lasting imprint on an individual, which can then influence their offspring through various mechanisms, including altered parenting behaviors and genetic modifications.

Effects of Stress on Subsequent Generations

According to Cadabam, research indicates that stress experienced by parents can affect offspring’s stress response systems. For instance, children of parents who have endured significant stress or trauma may exhibit heightened anxiety or stress sensitivity.

Cadabam also said that stress effects can also be transmitted behaviorally, where stressed parents might engage in less effective parenting strategies, creating an environment that perpetuates stress and anxiety in children.

Physiological Changes and Potential Therapeutic Approaches

“Elevated levels of glucocorticoids (stress hormones) such as cortisol are known to influence brain development. Chronic exposure to high cortisol levels can lead to structural and functional brain changes, particularly in areas like the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are crucial for stress regulation and cognitive functions,” Neha Cadabam explained.

She emphasized the importance of developing therapeutic approaches that focus on altering detrimental epigenetic modifications caused by stress, suggesting that it could provide new ways to treat or even prevent stress-related disorders across generations.

Mechanisms and Implications on Public Health Policies

Cadabam lists several factors that can cause changes in brain structure and function to be inherited by future generations:

Epigenetic factors: Stress can lead to changes in DNA methylation patterns of genes involved in the stress response, altering their expression without changing the DNA sequence itself.

Biological pathways: These epigenetic modifications can be inherited, affecting how easily the offspring can manage stress.

Germ line transmission: Stress-induced epigenetic changes can also occur in germ cells (sperm and eggs), which means they can be directly transmitted to the next generation, influencing development from the earliest stages of life.

According to Cadabam, some public health policies or interventions aimed at reducing stress-related disorders are as follows:

Awareness and screening: Understanding intergenerational transmission of stress can help in developing screening tools to identify individuals at risk of stress-related disorders early in their lives.

Targeted interventions: Interventions could be designed to specifically address not only those experiencing stress and trauma but also their children, focusing on breaking the cycle of transmission.

Educational programs: Public health initiatives could include educational programs aimed at improving parenting strategies for stressed parents, thereby mitigating the transmission of stress effects to offspring.

These initiatives underline the importance of addressing stress not only for the present but also for the well-being of future generations.

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

New Study Reveals Link Between Depression, Anorexia, and Gut Microbiota

A recent study published in BMC Psychiatry sheds light on a potential connection between major depressive disorder (MDD), anorexia, and gut microbiota. Led by researchers at the First Hospital of Shanxi Medical University, the study suggests that individuals with both depression and anorexia exhibit distinct patterns in their gut bacteria, particularly involving the presence of a specific bacterium called Blautia.

Depression, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in daily activities, affects millions worldwide and is often accompanied by a high risk of suicide. Anorexia, marked by reduced appetite and distorted body image, commonly co-occurs with depression, complicating treatment efforts.

Gut Bacteria’s Role in Depression and Anorexia

Up Next

Anxiety Alleviation: Dietitians Recommend 4 Drinks to Lower Anxiety

In a world where stress and anxiety are prevalent, with up to 19% of U.S. adults experiencing prolonged anxiety, the quest for effective coping mechanisms continues.

While traditional treatments like medication and therapy remain pillars of support, emerging research suggests that dietary choices, including hydration, might play a significant role in managing anxiety levels.

Drinks to Lower Anxiety You Must Know About

Here, we delve into the top drinks to lower anxiety recommended by dietitians –

1. Chamomile Tea: Renowned for its calming properties, chamomile tea contains apigenin, a flavonoid compound known for its anti-anxiety effects. Wan Na Chan, M.P.H., RD,

Up Next

Managing Autoimmune Disorders Through Yoga: Effective Practices to Consider

In recent years, the intersection between holistic practices like yoga and conventional medicine has garnered significant attention, particularly in the realm of managing autoimmune disorders.

A burgeoning body of research suggests that incorporating yoga into treatment plans can offer tangible benefits for individuals grappling with autoimmune conditions. From rheumatoid arthritis to lupus, yoga’s gentle yet powerful techniques hold promise in alleviating symptoms and improving overall quality of life.

Yoga, with its emphasis on mindful movement, breathwork, and relaxation, provides a multifaceted approach to managing autoimmune disorders. The practice not only addresses physical symptoms but also targets the underlying stress and inflammation that often exacerbate these conditions.

Up Next

Pregnancy Linked to Accelerated Aging Process in Women, Study Finds

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers shed light on a compelling connection between pregnancy and the aging process in women.

The study, led by Calen Ryan, an associate research scientist at the Columbia University Ageing Center, suggests that women who have experienced pregnancy may exhibit more signs of biological aging compared to those who haven’t. Intriguingly, the research also indicates that the aging process may accelerate with multiple pregnancies.

Ryan commented on the findings, stating, “We’re discovering that pregnancy leaves lasting effects on the body. While not all are negative, it appears to heighten the risk of certain diseases and overall mortality.”


Up Next

Unlocking Hoarding Disorder: Understanding, Support, and Effective Solutions

Hoarding disorder, a mental health condition characterized by persistent difficulty in parting with possessions and accumulating excessive clutter, affects millions of individuals worldwide. Here’s what you need to know about this often misunderstood disorder and how to support those who struggle with it.

Defining Hoarding Disorder:

Hoarding disorder is a complex mental health condition marked by a compulsive urge to accumulate possessions, leading to overwhelming clutter and difficulty discarding items.

According to experts like Brad Schmidt and Gregory Chasson, individuals with hoarding disorder often experience distress at the thought of parting with their belongings and may also have a strong desire to acquire new items.

Up Next

Understanding Cherophobia: Signs, Causes, and Coping Strategies

Cherophobia, a condition characterized by an aversion to happiness, has garnered attention for its impact on mental well-being.

Derived from the Greek word “Chairo,” meaning “I rejoice,” cherophobia manifests as an irrational fear of experiencing joy. Therapist Carolyn Rubenstein explains that this fear often stems from anxious thoughts associated with past trauma or childhood experiences linking happiness to negative outcomes.

Signs of Cherophobia

Recognizing the signs of cherophobia is crucial for identifying individuals who may be struggling with this condition:

Feelings of Guilt and Unworthiness: Those with cherophobia experience guilt and unwor

Up Next

Stress Can Lead to Cortisol Belly: Here’s How to Fix It

Stress can affect our lives in many ways, from our mental health to our relationships, but it can also lead to physical symptoms such as ‘cortisol belly’. Cortisol belly, named after the stress hormone, has been widely discussed on social platforms such as TikTok, with users and experts explaining how it occurs, and theorizing what could be done about it.

While you may not have heard of the term ‘cortisol belly’ before, you might have heard of stubborn belly fat or stress belly, which are essentially the same thing. This is because it refers to the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue around the stomach, which has been linked to prolonged exposure to elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

What Is Cortisol Belly?

According to dietitian