Studies show that simple steps during pregnancy like lowering your level of stress, adding certain supplements to your diet, and exercise can increase the odds of delivering a baby with a powerful brain that can help him or her to flourish in life.
Stress: A relatively stress-free mother increases the odds of delivering a baby with a very smart brain. On the other hand, high stress in mom during pregnancy can mean trouble for baby’s brain development. A number of independent prospective studies show that if a mother is stressed, anxious or depressed while pregnant, her child is at increased risk for developing a range of unhappy problems, including emotional problems, ADHD, conduct disorder and impaired cognitive development.
But don’t stress. Moms can learn how to transcend stress. If stress is a problem in your life, it’s because genetics and a difficult past wired you for stress. You can rewire those faulty circuits by making a simple consistent shift in attitude leading to greater calm, optimism, and creativity in resolving life’s stressors. Research has shown that a dynamically peaceful attitude, which of course is the polar opposite of stress and fear, builds a great brain. My book The End of Stress, Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain can show you how to make this shift, and achieve it quickly.
Diet: A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who took Vitamin B folic acid early had a 40 percent lower risk of giving birth to a child with autism. You can get folic acid in prenatal vitamins and in your diet by eating certain breakfast cereals, lentils, and leafy greens like spinach. In addition, take Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, have a major impact on the production of brain cells (neurons) in your baby.
Exercise: Of course, exercising during pregnancy will give mom greater strength and stamina during labor, but it can also increase baby’s brain power. A study in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine found that children of moms who exercised during pregnancy scored higher on tests of language skills and intelligence at age 5 compared with the kids of sedentary moms. Talk to your doctor about the kind of exercise that’s best for you.