When a pregnant woman experiences stress, her unborn fetus uses its left hand more, new research finds.
A mother's stress therefore affects her fetus and may impact the child's development after birth and throughout his or her life. The findings are published in the journal Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition.
"While we observed a higher degree of left-handed behavior in the fetuses of stressed mothers than had been expected, we are not saying that maternal stress leads to a child becoming left-handed after birth, as there could be a number of reasons for this," lead author Nadja Reissland of Durham University's Department of Psychology said in a press release.
"The research does suggest, however, that a fetus can detect when a mother is stressed and that it responds to this stress," she added.
Reissland and her colleagues used 4-D ultrasound scans to observe 15 healthy fetuses at four different stages between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. During this time, the researchers also asked the mothers how much stress they had experienced in the four weeks between each of the scans.