Maternal stress can affect child’s health

Nicole Mahrer, assistant professor of psychology, discusses her research on the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy and after childbirth at the weekly faculty lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Dining Room./ Photo by Litsy Tellez
Nicole Mahrer, assistant professor of psychology, discusses her research on the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy and after childbirth at the weekly faculty lecture Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Dining Room. / photo by Litsy Tellez

Nicole Mahrer, assistant professor of psychology, discussed how maternal stress affects children’s health, the subject of her recent research, Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room.

The lecture, “Maternal stress before and during pregnancy: The multifaceted effects on child health” was attended by 30 people in-person and 12 via Webex.

Mahrer presented findings from her work at UCLA and current work at the University of La Verne.

She became the study coordinator of the UCLA project while pregnant with twins.

The study explored racial disparities in child and maternal health. Participants were from Los Angeles, Illinois, Washington D.C. and South Carolina. Women participated in the study for six years.

They measured the mothers’ anxiety level during the pregnancy and the types of things they were worried about. Then they observed the development of the children’s health and temperament from infancy to toddlerhood. Research found that stress is a predictor of not only how the pregnancy might go, but could affect the child for the first five years of life.

“We know stress during pregnancy increases the risk for physical and psychological impairment in children,” Mahrer said.“This information expands our opportunity to intervene.”

Children are most affected when their mother is worried about things they have no control over, Mahrer said.

Mahrer ended the lecture with practical ways to overcome stress such as therapy, taking classes about childbirth and how to care for a child and joining a support group. She added that it is important to teach children from a young age how to cope with anxiety, stress and depression.

Al Clark, professor of humanities, praised Mahrer for how thorough Mahrer’s research and publications are.

Clark also expressed the relevance of the lecture to college students.

”It’s material that is (pertinent) to your life…” Clark said. “Most students will probably have a child within the next ten years.”

–Greta Taylor

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