Mother’s Hardship During Pregnancy Affect Gut Microbiome Composition in Children, Study Shows

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A pioneering study by University of California-Los Angeles psychologists has revealed that a child’s gut microbiome can be adversely affected if their mother experienced hardships during her own childhood or pregnancy. This research is the first to illustrate the intergenerational impact of adversity on the human gut microbiome.

Children inherit their first gut bacteria from the mother

Gut microbiome is vital for immune system and brain function and UCLA researchers suggesting that changes in this microbial community could impact socioemotional development in children.

This study builds upon previous research that emphasized the influence of prenatal stress on the vaginal and gut microbiomes of maternal rodents. Babies inherit their initial gut bacteria from their mothers at birth, making the mother’s microbiome the basis for her offspring’s

Researchers in Singapore studied 450 mother-child pairs, particularly focusing on two-year-old children, to investigate the lasting effects of prenatal stress. They collected information about maternal childhood maltreatment, prenatal anxiety, and the children’s early-life stressors and health conditions from interviews with the mothers and primary caregivers.

Maternal anxiety leads to unique gut microbiomes evenness

The study revealed that heightened maternal anxiety during pregnancy led to a unique “evenness” in the gut microbiomes of children, deviating from the typical variation in microbial populations. Conversely, children experiencing post-birth stress exhibited reduced microbial genetic diversity, indicating a stronger connection among their gut microbes.

Lead study author and post-doctoral fellow at UCLA Francesca Querdasi said that there are many questions regarding whether greater diversity or evenness holds a superior or inferior position when it comes to the maturation of the gut microbiome in childhood. Consequently, there remains uncertainty regarding whether an abundance of diversity is advantageous at the age of two.

Certain behavioural and mental health problems have been linked to an abundance of specific microbial species, although these are not the same species connected to adversity in this study. Past research has indicated some associations in this regard. Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging field that explores the potential effects of dietary changes on mental health, particularly as scientists investigate the relationship between the brain and gut microbiome.

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