A mother's stress can spread to her baby in the womb and may cause a lasting effect ...
... a receptor for stress hormones appears to undergo a biological change in the unborn child if the mother is highly stressed ...
And this change may leave the child less able to handle stress themselves.
It has already been linked to mental illness and behavioural problems.
... the women involved in the study had exceptional home circumstances and that most pregnant women would not be exposed to such levels of stress day in and day out.
... the researchers say the findings are not conclusive - many other factors, including the child's social environment while growing up, might be involved.
... But they suspect it is the child's earliest environment, the womb, that is key.
... Some of the teens had changes to one particular gene ... that helps regulate the body's hormonal response to stress.
Such genetic alterations typically happen while the baby is still developing in the womb.
And the scientists believe they are triggered by the mum-to-be's poor state of emotional wellbeing at the time of the pregnancy.
... "It would appear that babies who get signals from their mum that they are being born into a dangerous world are faster responders. They have a lower threshold for stress and seem to be more sensitive to it."...