The Stress in Pregnancy Study focuses on uncovering underlying mechanisms and interplay between genes and the environment during pregnancy on fetal and subsequent child development. In this study, we were especially interested in studying the effects of natural-disaster related maternal stress on infant temperament at 6 months. Specifically, we looked at mothers who were pregnant during Hurricane Sandy. We hypothesized that exposure to Hurricane Sandy would magnify the effect of prenatal stress, which would result in negative effects on infant fearfulness, emotional regulation and sadness. Our findings demonstrated that exposure to maternal stress in utero resulted in emotional dysregulation and distressed emotion in infants. Furthermore, exposure to Hurricane Sandy in utero exacerbated the effects of maternal stress such that infants presented greater levels of distress, and shorter duration of attention. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to explore the relationship between prenatal depression and natural disaster trauma on child temperament. Given the increase in natural disasters over recent years, it is especially important for expecting mothers as well as healthcare professionals to understand the effects of natural disasters and maternal stress on infant development. Only then, can mothers and healthcare professionals work together to identify and recognize those who are struggling with stress and those whose stress may be amplified due to additional natural/environmental circumstance to prevent for sub-optimal child development.

  • Stress in Pregnancy (SIP) Study
  • City University of New York, Queens College 
  • Dr. Yoko Nomura
  • Phone: 718-570- 0347 
  • Email: [email protected]
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  • Twitter: @sip_study