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Summer Science Exhibition 2009

Can what happens in the womb last a lifetime?









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Researchers at Imperial College London are studying the effects of a pregnant woman's emotional state on her developing fetus.

"We are fascinated by what makes us who we are. The influence of genes and our environment on human development are well known," says Professor Vivette Glover of Imperial College. "It is now becoming clear our environment starts in the womb."

Research shows that there is an immediate link between maternal stress, or relaxation, and the fetal heart rate. The team has found that those children who were born to mothers who were stressed during pregnancy were more likely to suffer from anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity and conduct disorders. By monitoring antenatal maternal anxiety and life events, and testing ‘Toddler IQ’ and emotional reactivity, it was found that a mother’s emotional state could affect a child’s behaviour and learning ability.

"Our research is showing how a mother’s stress or anxiety levels during pregnancy can also be key in a child’s development, potentially doubling the risk for the child to have emotional and behavioural problems later in life," says Vivette. "Better emotional care of pregnant women should help prevent the development of neurodevelopmental problems in many children, having an important effect on the health of future generations."


  • Professor Vivette Glover, Mr Kieran O’Donnell, Mrs Diana Adams, Ms Laura Freeman, Dr Martin Kammerer, Mrs Bennie Agbagwara, Ms Alice Herreboudt, Ms Natasha Khalife, and Mrs Jenny Chambers, Imperial College London
  • Dr Alyx Taylor, King’s College London

See all exhibits from 2009

Can what happens in the womb last a lifetime?

Can what happens in the womb last a lifetime? - an exhibit at the 2009 Summer Science Exhibition by exhibitors from Imperial College London, King’s College London

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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