Since September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, we are focusing on mental health and how it can affect the healthy development of a child – even before birth.

Stress and mental health go hand in hand. When you’re stressed, your body produces stress hormones, and as you overcome the stress, the hormones go away. This is a normal process. For many in Missouri’s Bootheel, however, stress can be a constant instigator: chronic, unrelenting and regularly producing high levels of stress hormones.

Poverty, lack of food, racism, exposure to violence and other daily irritants can all cause toxic stress. When it comes to pregnancy, daily toxic stress can be harmful to the baby. Pregnant women already produce more stress hormones than usual, and when they live in a toxic environment, their risk of delivering prematurely increases.

In the Bootheel, about four babies die each year due to premature birth. 

Proper prenatal care overseen by a healthcare professional can help pregnant women understand how toxic stress affects their pregnancy and give them tips to combat it. While prenatal care is important to ensure the health of a baby, it’s also a good time for mothers to have a mental checkup and discuss symptoms of depression with their healthcare provider.

Women with depression or anxiety may experience

  • Extreme sadness or anger spontaneously
  • Difficulty completing activities due to brain fog
  • A feeling of detachment from the world
  • Disinterest in things that used to bring joy
  • Guilt from believing they are or will be a bad mother
  • Unstable irritation
  • Upsetting thoughts that won’t go away

Treating depression and anxiety can help mothers and caregivers feel more confident and at peace with their baby, providing the support the child needs to survive and thrive.

At Bootheel Babies & Families, our goal is to connect parents and caregivers with resources to ensure their babies enjoy healthy lives. No matter how you feel, we promise it’s not hopeless. Contact us to get information about no-cost resources in your county today.