DHA in maternal stress during pregnancy


Cortisol is a hormone (a glucocorticoid) produced in response to stress and a low level of blood glucose, and it is known to play a key role in events underlying the development of the brain and other organ systems.

Developing brain is particularly sensitive to exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. Intrauterine conditions that affect amygdala and hippocampus (two brain areas that develop at an early embryonic stage) are associated with increased long-term risk for neurodevelopmental and psychopathological disorders, and they are believed to be particularly sensitive during development to elevated levels of glucocorticoids. For example: higher maternal cortisol levels in earlier gestation has been associated with more affective problems and a larger amygdala volume in girls (at the age of 7). If a mother is stressed while pregnant, this increases the risk for her child having emotional problems (conduct disorder, aggression or anxiety), symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or impaired cognitive development.

It has been observed an association between levels of the stress hormone cortisol during pregnancy (especially in the second trimester) and overweight offspring during childhood into adolescence.

A study performed by the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Chicago has concluded that supplementation with 450 mg per day of DHA may attenuate the effects of maternal stress during late pregnancy, improving the uterine environment with regard to fetal exposure to cortisol. Women with DHA supplementation had lower cortisol output in response to stress.

Again, omega-3 have shown their benefits during pregnancy.




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