Pregnancy is such a routine and frequent fact of life, you'd think we'd know everything there is to know about gestating by now. Yet scientists continue to learn new details about what happens to both mothers and babies in the months leading up to labor and delivery. Here are a few facts that may surprise you.
Stress Without Stressing Out
Despite all the hype about the dangers of a mother's stress to her fetus, recent research suggests that the opposite might be true. When women experience the normal levels of worry that come from juggling work, life, family and pregnancy, their babies actually get a developmental boost.
In one study, developmental psychologist Janet DiPietro and colleagues found that when mothers reported higher levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy, their babies were born with faster auditory nerve signals -- a marker of neurological development. It's still not clear whether a healthy dose of stress is actually good for the baby, or if higher levels of stress go along with other maternal behaviors that boost development. Either way, pregnant women would do well to stop stressing so much about being so stressed out.
"It is a crazy perpetuating cycle," said DiPietro, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "The stress field has been oversold and the public thinks stress is really bad for pregnancy, but the data on that are not strong."