4 Things Doctors Don’t Usually Talk About That Affect Babies’ Intelligence in the Womb
Fewer and fewer people want to have babies at a young age. But is it really as good for children as it seems at first sight? Scientists from different countries got really interested in this question and did extensive studies on evaluating the intelligence of children in connection to the age of their parents and other factors.
We at Bright Side are totally for being responsible when you are planning a family and we want to tell you about the not-so-obvious things that may influence the intelligence and emotional development of a little one.
1. Babies’ intelligence depends on the age of their parents.
Every new person born is sort of a mutant. Children have about 70 mutations that their parents don’t have. And most of them are carried by the sperm, not the egg: the older the man is, the more mutations he passes on to his children.
And the number of mutations is directly linked to cognitive abilities. The more mutations, the less the person is likely to develop intellectually in a normal way. This is estimated by regular IQ tests, tests on mental functions, and tests on reading comprehension. In other words, it is bad for children if the father is older.
Things are a bit different when it comes to the mother’s age. The older a woman, the higher the intelligence of her future child. Researchers think that it is not only about the genes, but also about the social factors: older women are better-educated, more experienced, they know what they want better, and they are not likely to be too adventurous.
One way or another, statistically, young mothers’ children develop slower.
2. Genetic tests are a good idea, even if you think that you don’t have any illnesses.
This is the diagram of the inheritance of some genetic illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis and sensorineural hearing loss.
Tests check your DNA for the presence of some genetic illnesses (this is done before the pregnancy) or the DNA of the embryo while it is in the mother’s womb. The results will show the probability that the child will have some disease.
Before the pregnancy, you should also get tests for the presence of genes that can cause certain disorders, that you might not even know you have. Experts will estimate the probability that your child will have this gene.
This happened to Sharon Bernardi, an American who lost 7 children under the age of 2. Every single one of them had Leigh syndrome, which affects the central nervous system. Despite that, Sharon and her husband tried to conceive a healthy child. Only one out of the 7 made it to the age of 21, and the boy had to take medications all the time and still had seizures, every single one of which could have been his last.
3. The development of the child is connected with how much their mother worried during the pregnancy.
In order to make sure the central nervous system develops properly, the brain should be stressed sometimes. But it is important to not overdo it: too much anxiety is not going to get you anywhere good.
With this idea, a team at Johns Hopkins University studied several pregnant women, every one of whom had a college degree and was both physically and mentally healthy. During the pregnancy and when the children were 2 years old, experts estimated the stress levels in the women and the cognitive abilities in their children.
They found that the children whose mothers had low or moderate levels of stress were more intellectually and physically advanced. And vice versa: if a woman was too stressed, her child was less developed than the other children.
So, scientists drew the following conclusion: the development of children’s brains improves only if mothers are moderately stressed during their pregnancy.
4. The level of stress of a pregnant woman also affects the temper of her future child.
In the past, it was believed that people’s tempers were something that they were born with and that they were not influenced by anything. Now, this concept is changing: experts are actively studying the development of the fetus in the womb of the mother and are finding more and more evidence that embryos can feel the stress of their mothers and take on some of it.
In one of the experiments, scientists watched 50 pregnant women. They tracked their heart rate while they were doing the Stroop test (which causes minor anxiety). If a woman was depressed or had elevated anxiety levels before the test, the test caused a serious heart rate increase. Of course, the fetus’ heart rate increased too.
So, this is the conclusion the scientists came to: if the fetus reacts to the mother’s stress with a significant heart rate increase, chances are that the child will be hyperactive.
Of course, these factors are not the only ones in play. Many other things can affect the baby’s intelligence level. For example, pregnant women are not recommended to live in houses with old pipes or where the walls were painted about 20 years ago, because in this case, there may be elevated levels of lead in the air.
Other experts warn that before the pregnancy, women need to get their thyroid checked: if it doesn’t function properly, the child is likely to have a lower than normal IQ level. Anyway, doctors recommend being very serious about having children: it is better to take the necessary steps to improve the atmosphere for raising a child, rather than miss some really important ones.
Tell us about your experience with pregnancy. How did you prepare for it or will you prepare for it, what factors did or will you take into account?