We’ve all heard that a mother’s stress is bad for the baby, and now a new study offers more evidence in support of this claim. Research from The Ohio State University found in a mouse study that prenatal exposure to stress changed a mother’s gut bacteria, and contributed to lifelong anxiety and cognitive problems in her offspring.

The research, presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, revealed that female mice exposed to stress during their pregnancy showed notable changes in the makeup of the bacteria in their gut and placenta. These changes were also seen in the intestinal tracts of their female offspring. In addition, female offspring of stressed mouse mothers showed signs of stress and anxiety, and compromised cognitive health, compared to offspring of mice that were not stressed during their pregnancy. The results help to reveal the role that gut bacteria play in not only our own health, but also that of our offspring.

"These mice were more anxious, they spent more time in dark, closed spaces and they had a harder time learning cognitive tasks even though they were never stressed after birth." said study lead researcher Dr. Tamar Gur in a recent statement.

For the study, mother mice were restrained for two hours a day for seven days as a way to purposely induce stress. The control mice were left completely undisturbed during their pregnancy. The research not only gives clues to the dangers of stress during a pregnancy but also suggest the importance of gut bacteria, and the link they have to our brain.

"As a psychiatrist who treats pregnant women, if you're stressed, anxious or depressed, I think pregnancy is a prime time for intervention," Gur said in the statement. "And what's good for mom is good for the baby.”

In addition to proper mental health, past research also suggests that gut bacteria play a role in our physical health, specifically our likeliness of developing allergies. A study from earlier this year found patterns in the gut bacteria of children that predicted whether or not they would be diagnosed with allergies or asthma later in life.

"It seems that the microbial communities within the body could be the keystone to understanding this and a number of different immune diseases,” concluded the study's co-senior author Dr. Christine Cole Johnson in a statement.

Source: Gur T, et al. Annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.2016

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