Recently, University of Calgary researchers asked pregnant women these questions assessing the support they get from their husbands/partners: how much do the get, how easily they provided it, and how effective it was at getting them through life’s challenges. The goal of the research was to understand what effect support from spouses had on pregnant mothers’ responses to stress. Knowing that a pregnant women’s stress levels affect the health of their developing fetus, this research set out to examine whether supportive partners could have an impact on future health of their child.
Moms with supportive spouses showed consistently low cortisol levels. Fathers didn’t stop mothers from feeling upset or anxious from time to time, but their support directly affected how their partners’ bodies reacted to and dealt with anxiety. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal. If you still feel the distress, what difference does the presence of a few natural chemicals make? To your baby, a great deal indeed.
As the researchers point out: “In sustained doses, cortisol can weaken children’s developing brain architecture. Brains are like houses: their upper storeys — the reasoning and cognitive skills — can only stand when the foundation beneath them is solid. Cortisol, if left unchecked, erodes this foundation, and can lead to all kinds of psychological, emotional, and even physical problems, many of which linger into adulthood.”
This adds to a a growing body of research that shows us that fathers can have a much deeper influence on their children in utero than previously expected.
For more information on this exciting research check out the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine.