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Recent study suggests that stress during pregnancy could cause ‘premature puberty’ in daughters”

Recent research has shed light on a correlation between maternal stress during pregnancy and early maturation in first-born daughters. It's important to note, that correlation does not mean causation. Although there were factors that resulted in 'early maturation', we cannot say that the early maturation is caused directly by the stress during pregnancy - there could be other factors that contribute to this. In this article, we will explore the findings of this study, highlighting the unique challenges faced by first-born daughters and the potential impact of maternal stress on their development. By understanding these factors, we can navigate parenthood with greater awareness and make informed decisions to support our children's well-being.

The graph below from MedicalXpress shows the effect of prenatal stress of first born girls vs first born boys.

Graph from MedicalXpress article

Adrenal puberty - an important milestone in development:

Puberty is a natural and transformative stage of our children's lives. It occurs in two stages, with adrenal puberty being the first. Adrenal puberty is characterised by the activation of the adrenal glands, small glands on top of the kidneys, which produce hormones that trigger the initial signs of puberty. These signs can manifest as body hair growth and pimples, without physical changes like breast development or menstruation onset. The study measured childrens adrenal puberty through children's biomarkers.

The role of oldest daughters and 'eldest daughter syndrome':

In many cultures, oldest daughters often assume additional responsibilities within the family. Whether it's helping to raise younger siblings or assisting with household chores, they may shoulder a significant burden from an early age. This socio-cultural phenomenon, often referred to as 'Eldest Daughter Syndrome,' can result in feelings of overwhelm, pressure, and a heightened sense of responsibility for the overall well-being of the family.

A 15-year study on prenatal stress and early maturation:

To better understand the relationship between prenatal stress and early maturation in first-born daughters, a 15-year study was conducted across two clinics in Southern California. The study included women with an average age of 30, aged 18 and above, and who had singleton pregnancies. Approximately half of the participants were experiencing their first pregnancy. It's important to note that all participants refrained from smoking, steroid medications, tobacco, alcohol, or recreational drugs during pregnancy.

Measuring maternal stress and children's biomarkers:

Throughout the study, researchers measured the levels of stress, depression, and anxiety experienced by mothers during pregnancy and 2-3 months postpartum. Mothers were asked to rate the truth of statements such as "I felt lonely" or how frequently they experienced symptoms like feeling jittery. In addition, children's biomarkers of adrenal and gonadal puberty were measured separately. This included body hair growth, changes in skin, height growth, physical development, onset of menstruation, facial hair, voice changes, and hormone levels through saliva samples.

Unique findings: early maturation in first-born girls:

The results of the study were intriguing, as they revealed a correlation between high levels of prenatal stress and early maturation specifically in first-born daughters. The same result was not observed in boys or daughters who were not the eldest in their families. This finding suggests that there may be a unique susceptibility among first-born girls to the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy.


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