Prenatal programming and stress – Rosey Sembatya.

What caused me the most stress during my pregnancy was seeing other pregnant women going about their lives like normal; wearing their short dresses, eating whatever they wanted, looking all fresh and bubbly, and enjoying their bump. I was a wreck. I wished Jesus could come back already. Where was the rapture!  I tell you, I was looking forward to it. And then I was put on bed rest so that meant that many things about me had to hit a snag. Dealing with scents, and people not following my food orders to the dot ticked me off. I liked pawpaw but it had to be a certain way…I didn’t want to see it with its babies (the seeds)…O! I was fickle. The blue and white patterns on the taxis would annoy me, and so would the sound of a ringing phone.

Reading during the bed rest made me realize that I was after all the normal one. Something as significant as pregnancy causes major changes in most women. This helped me relax somewhat and focus on the issue at hand, the child.

I came to learn that stress in pregnant women could manifest as irritability, mood swings, frowns, sneers, a general unkemptness, high blood pressure, withdrawal, and social distancing. At least most pregnant mothers will experience some of these and be alright. The trouble is with failing to manage the stress levels. When stress is not recognized and managed during pregnancy, it impacts the placenta. The placenta happens to be the child’s first home. Imagine the way your home is supposed to be to you.  It is your everything; your place of rest, source of calm, and many things nice. That is why even in general politesse, you can calm a guest by telling them to feel at home.

When the mother is stressed, the baby will detect it immediately. Remember the child feeds off the mother’s energy through the biorhythms that enable bonding. Therefore when mother’s unmanaged stressed brain releases the hormone called cortisol in excess, the child will notice how the general vibe has changed. If this happens at a time when the child’s structures are still forming, this is what will happen.

Remember structures form in the womb, and when the cells have been deployed to make some body parts such as arms, that process cannot be reversed.  If the cells meant to form arms find that the brain or life of that child in the womb is in danger due to stress or other factors, then all efforts go towards saving the life of the child, and the formation of the arms will be left alone. This means that no more cells to make arms will be sent again because that process is cannot be repeated and is irreversible. The child will have no arms. Sometimes this threat to the life of the child can happen after one arm has formed and another is half way, the cells will wrap up that process so that the concentration is on saving the life of the child(or fetus if you like). This could explain why some children are born with arms that are not of the same length.

Children borne of stressed mothers (if they are able to be born) are prone to disease, mood disorder, and low birth weight, and the likelihood of miscarriage is high. The latter is probably because the child’s home, the placenta has been compromised and the baby needs to leave that place. Because the placenta has reshaped the mother’s body to  fit the child’s needs, according to the placenta, the child is more important than the mother, and therefore if it senses that the survival of the child in the womb is being compromised, it will want to protect the child by letting her leave the unsafe place. But remember because of the stress, especially high stress levels, the cortisol has already impacted the child and therefore the effects could manifest in the physical, but also in the future as emotional  issues as well as being prone to diseases.

I remember I had to cut myself from people I didn’t like and kept visiting only those that enabled me to calm down.  I kept rereading my favorite books and magazines, got off social media and took short walks as I prayed, and talked to the child in the womb. I took a decision to concentrate on the pregnancy. It may not be the same for some mothers but the deep breathings helps with calmness as is the acceptance of the fact that what will be will be.

Remember to read my next article on prenatal programming and voice.

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Rosey is the founder of Malaika Children's Mobile Library. She is enthusiastic about early childhood and child protection. She loves tea and dogs.

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