Q: According to my doctor-uncle, stress can increase a person’s risk for illnesses and diseases from the constant triggering of Fight-or-Flight and maybe even shorten your life. This is unclear to me. Is the problem the Fight-Flight response? And in terms of pregnancy stress, what does that mean for the baby?
A: Of course, I don’t know in what context your discussion about this occurred. However, studies have shown that the stress responses of fight-or-flight trigger the release of hormones and chemicals that impact the entire body. But it’s far more than that! When a woman is pregnant, the umbilical cord goes from the placenta to the fetus, transmitting everything carried in the mother’s blood. So, if the stress response is triggered in the mother, the hormones and chemicals released (such as Corticotropin Releasing Factor, adrenalin, or cortisol) also impact the fetus. After birth, extreme stress can even impact how tall a child will grow, plus it suppresses immune system function—which can increase your risk for disease and illnesses, which in turn could shorten your life.