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University study says stress experienced while pregnant has lasting health impacts for children

A joint study by researchers at the University of Lethbridge and Montreal's McGill University is providing further evidence that stress experienced by expectant mothers can have lasting impacts on the health of their children. Malika Karim has more.

A recent university study says stress felt by women while pregnant can heighten the risk of certain diseases in their children when they become adults.

It’s new insight for some soon-to-be moms.

“In reading the study, I wasn’t specific in the knowledge of metabolic concerns — my first guess would have been towards mental health,” expectant mother, Ashly Wicks said.

READ MORE: Using air purifiers in homes of pregnant women may improve fetal growth, B.C. study finds

The study, Project Ice Storm, was spearheaded by Dr. Suzanne King, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University. It examines pregnant women who lived through the great ice storm of 1998 in eastern Ontario and Quebec, and who identified that event as a stressful time.

Great Ice Storm of 1998 in Ontario and Quebec
Great Ice Storm of 1998 in Ontario and Quebec Global News

Upon closer examination of urine samples from 32 now adolescent children, both genders showed higher risks for metabolic illnesses like diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity.

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“The most important reason to study this is to see if there are any long-term health implications on these children due to stress that the mother experienced, that has nothing to do with their life experiences — it’s programmed into them already,” nuclear magnetic resonance manager at the University of Lethbridge, Tony Montina, said.

“We’re actually already diagnosing a few individuals with diabetes, already at this early stage in life,” neuroscientist at the University of Lethbridge, Dr. Gerlinde Metz, said. “I’m sure that we’ll discover much more as we move along.”

With their new findings, researchers are now looking into preventative options and how to identify disease markers earlier in life.

University of Lethbridge researchers
University of Lethbridge researchers Global News

“In today’s lifestyle, I think we’re more easily comfortable with taking pills if we already develop a disease,” Metz said. “We would like to intervene earlier so the disease does not develop. We can intervene and protect the individual from coming down with the symptoms of a certain health condition.”

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Researchers plan to continue their work by examining stress felt during other natural disasters and their correlation to potential health risks later in life.

WATCH: More young women suffering pregnancy depression

More young women suffering pregnancy depression
More young women suffering pregnancy depression
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