Is my baby too small because I’m too anxious?

23-24 weeks pregnant, Questions/answers

Hello, my name is Maéva, and I am 24 weeks pregnant. I got my 21-week ultrasound result, and my baby is a bit smaller than they should be at this stage. My doctor told me that it’s because I am too anxious. I was so surprised by their comment that I didn’t ask why. Now I feel angry at them and would like to know why they said that, but I am worried I will get mad if I talk to them. Can you help? Thanks in advance,

Maéva


Hello Maéva, I understand your shock during your conversation with your doctor. I am sure they didn’t want to anger you. They were just sharing what they thought explained your baby’s small size.

I can’t really explain everything as I don’t have all the details of your situation. Your doctor is the right person for this task as they know your history, medical history, etc. But I think you should ask them to explain their comment.

What I can do is talk about the potential effects of anxiety on your pregnancy, health and general development of your baby.

We know that when stressed, a certain number of neurotransmitters are released (catecholamine), hormones which affect a person’s body. The response to this internal change can lead to physical, psychological and emotional reactions, and lead to a range of intense thoughts based on each person.

For example, cortisol is called the stress hormone, and its release can have positive effects (good stress), but if sustained over time in high quantity, it can lead to more negative effects. When pregnant women have anxiety disorders, there is more cortisol circulating and can pass through the placenta (about 10-20%) to the baby. Cortisol can affect the heartbeat, reduce the diameter of blood vessels (vasoconstriction) reducing the baby’s nutritional intake and oxygenation. This may lead to physical and cerebral development delays.

This is likely what your doctor was referring to, at least in part.

Anxious pregnant women have been noted to have more negative outcomes during pregnancy, more complications, and in the end a more negative experience. The woman often has less confidence in her skills, fewer hobbies, less satisfied with her social network and is at a higher risk for emotional distress pre- and postnatal.

I hope this helps you better understand what your doctor might be referring to. But once again, my answer is general and not specific to your situation. I really think you need to talk to your doctor.

Talk soon,

Marie
The Baby Expert

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