The impact of maternal stress on fetal brain development
Over the last decades, there is growing evidence that increased maternal stress levels have an adverse effect on the physiological and neuronal development of the fetus during gestation with possible long-lasting effects. Therefore, many studies focused on relaxation and stress during pregnancy and its effect on the fetus and the mother to prevent stress in pregnancy. Several studies showed that maternal stress also affects fetal endocrine processes during pregnancy and increases the risk for childhood and adult obesity. It has been shown that maternal metabolic stressors like gestational diabetes affect the heart rate variability in the fetus and can be associated with postprandially delayed brain responses.
In the current project, we investigate, toegther with the Womens’ Clinic of Tuebingen, the impact of betamethasone on fetal brain activity, as a proxy for activity of the nervous system, as well as fetal heart activity as a proxy for the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, we use visual and auditive stimuli by using fetal magnetoencephalography (fMEG) in betamethasone-treated women. Women will be measured twice during pregnancy and we will measure the neonates in 1-8 weeks after birth.