In The Times newspaper today there is an article, “Maternal Stress Passed on to Unborn Babies”.
It refers to a study in which the conclusion was that stress suffered by women in pregnancy can affect the unborn children and impair brain development.
Premature babies of women who had had stressful pregnancies had reduced development of a brain region which is believed to play a role in anxiety disorders in adults. Earlier studies had suggested that a third of babies are affected by maternal stress. These babies, as toddlers are more prone to aggressive tantrums.
This particular study was conducted at Kings College London and published yesterday in Biological Psychiatry. Apparently it is the first to show an impact on the structural of the brain.
In the study, 250 mothers were given a score based on stressful events such as taking an exam, bereavement on moving home in the year before the birth of their child. The researchers discovered that mothers with higher stress cause had babies with impaired development of the uncinate fasciculus. It is known that adults with anxiety disorders also exhibit changes in this particular part of the brain. This region of the brain is known to be vulnerable in the early stages of development and it also appears to be implicated in mental health problems.
I will get to the point now after that lengthy introduction. Research carried out by mentalhealth.org.uk in participation with the well-known charity Cats Protection in 2011 which involves over 600 cat and non-cat owning respondents found that 80% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their well-being. In addition, 76% said that they could cope with everyday life much better thanks to the company of their cat companion.
The companionship of a cat companion is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. They are a great source of comfort and motivation to their owners. Pets, both cats and dogs and other animals can help us to live mentally healthier lives.
Cats can reduce stress in a pregnant woman. There’s no question about it but set against that there is still the myth or misconception I would say that domestic cats can present a health problem to the unborn baby because of the toxoplasma gondii oocysts in the faeces of domestic cats. The domestic cat is a prime carrier of this protozoan and the illness is described as toxoplasmosis. Please click on this link for a reality check on toxoplasmosis.
A lot has been written about domestic cat companions in pregnant women. The general consensus is that women can deal with this with simple precautions and that there is no need to get rid of their domestic cat companion. The upside, as mentioned lengthily above is that pets including domestic cats are very beneficial to mental health. It’s a point that I want to make as is relevant to the article in The Times.