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The Impact of Stress Hormones in Pregnancy on Early Childhood Development, Especially in Girls.

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Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the last months of pregnancy may improve a baby’s speech and language skills in the first three years of life, according to a new study.

The results, presented May 13 at the 25th European Congress of Endocrinologists in Istanbul, will help researchers understand the role of cortisol in fetal and child development.

The development of speech in early childhood can indicate how well the child’s nervous system developed in the womb.

Prenatal exposure to cortisol, a steroid hormone that helps the body respond to stress, directs fetal growth and also influences brain development. However, the effect of cortisol on early speech development is still unknown.

In this new study, a team from Odense University Hospital analyzed data on cortisol levels in 1,093 Danish women during their third trimester of pregnancy, as well as the speech and language skills of 1,093 Danish children aged 12 to 37 months, starting with the Odense Children’s Cohort Study.

They found that boys exposed to high levels of cortisol in utero were able to say more words at 12–37 months of age, while girls were better at understanding more words at 12–21 months of age.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study that examines the relationship between maternal cortisol levels and children’s speech development over time, taking into account the sex of the child and the mother’s education,” said Dr. Anja Wenger-Dreyer, who took part in the study. research.

“We had access to a large cohort of studies, high-quality analyses, and relevant covariates, making our study an important contribution to the physiological understanding of the prenatal effects of cortisol on fetal maturation and child development,” she added.

The team will now assess whether babies exposed to high levels of cortisol in the womb have higher intelligence quotient (IQ) scores.

Excluding data on maternal cortisol levels and early language development, the Odense Children’s Cohort also has data on intelligence tests taken by seven-year-olds.

Dr. Wenger-Dreyer explains: “Early speech development in children is known to be a predictor of cognitive functions later in life, such as attention, memory and learning, so we wanted to find out if prenatal cortisol exposure was associated with IQ scores in children. up to 7 years.

Source: Medical Express

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