Baby stress revealed


After we wake up, our stress hormones surge. Cortisol can be measured in saliva to determine those stress levels. It happens for adults as well as babies. A research team has now taken this physiological opportunity to study stress levels in infants. “This gives us a new non-invasive and uncomplicated possibility to already research the activity of the stress system during infancy,” said Prof. Dr. Gunther Meinischmidt, of the Clinic of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the LWL University Hospital of the RUB.

Unethical to put babies under stress

In order to test stress, researchers usually stress out the adult by putting him under some kind of stress-inducing experience. You can’t do that with a baby. It would be unethical to purposely stress out a baby. Instead, scientists use waking up as the stress event. Doctors tested cortisol levels upon waking and then 30 minutes later. Cortisol levels rose during that half hour in 63% of the babies. The hour they work and whether or not they were fed made no difference to results.

Length of pregnancy effected cortisol level

What did make a difference was the length of pregnancy. The earlier the children were born, the less stress hormones were evident. “The stress hormone system may be less mature in babies who were born after a shorter pregnancy, which could have negative consequences,” explained assistant professor Marion Tegethoff, of the faculty for Psychology at the University of Basel.

Secret stress of babies

We know stress increases risk for mental disorders and physical disease. Stress is also key for flight or fight responses necessary for survival. Now researchers can take a peek at the once hidden stress levels of babies.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychoneuroendocrinology


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