Are “Stressed Out” Babies More Likely to Get Sick?

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Are stressed out babies more vulnerable to disease later in life? 

A new book contends that when babies experience “trauma” — like being born prematurely, having a depressed mother and being neglected – they will be at risk for all kinds of bad things as they get older.

“Children raised in traumatic environments are more prone to cancer, chronic pain and even diabetes,” said an article in Salon that quoted findings from the book, called Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease.

One of its authors, Robin Karr-Morse told Salon that among the “traumas” they studied were “emotional trauma very early in life – in the prenatal months and the first three years. We talk about what happens to a fetus and an early developing brain when there is chronic emotional trauma.”

What kinds of “trauma” experienced by pregnant women wind up affecting their offspring? Karr-Morse said anything from maternal malnutrition and ongoing maternal stress can have an impact.

A child born to a mother who experienced “poverty and war,” she said, “can have a tremendous influence on the nervous system of the fetus, so that baby, from birth, might be susceptible or hyper-vigilant or vulnerable to any form of stimulation, because their nervous system is set on high.” 

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