Pregnant women are often advised not to take too much of stress and now a study has revealed that stress hormones in the mother can affect foetal development impeding glusoce to the baby.
In an exepriment conducted on pregnant mice, researchers found that high stress levels had an impact on their offspring, by giving the pregnant mice the natural gluco-corticoid corticosterone at different times.
The increased levels of glucocorticoid stress hormones in pregnant mice caused the mother to eat more but reduced the ability of the placenta to supply glucose to the foetus.
“The findings show that maternal glucocorticoids regulate foetal nutrition. Higher glucocorticoid hormone levels in the mother can reduce glucose transport across the placenta and lead to a decrease in foetal weight,” said Owen Vaughan, lead author of the study.
Glucocorticoid levels in pregnant women determine the specific combination of nutrients received by the foetus and influence the long-term metabolic health of the baby later in life.
“This could have implications for women stressed during pregnancy or treated clinically with glucocorticoids, if the mechanisms are similar in humans,” said Vaughan.
The research found that during the time of stress in pregnant mother, certain genes in the placenta were modified and one particular gene called Redd1 in the placenta was changed by maternal stress.
This gene decides availability of other substances, like oxygen, and to interact with intracellular pathways regulating growth and nutrient consumption in other tissues of the body.
“Future studies may prove this molecule is important in the placenta, in linking environmental cues to the nutrition of the foetus,” Vaughan added. The study has been published in The Journal of Physiology.