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Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive June 18, 2014


Project Ice Storm studied the affects of in-utero exposure to varying levels of prenatal maternal stress (PNMS), and what affects that stress may have had on children carried during that event.
The population chosen for review were affected by the January 1998 Quebec Ice Storm,
which left millions of people without electricity for up to 40 days.

 






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Ice Storm Project records maternal stress

A new study finds a link between first trimester prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and the development of asthma and autism in children born to those moms who suffered early stress.

A team of scientists from The Douglas Mental Health University Institute and from McGill University have been studying a group of women who were pregnant in June of 1998 during Quebec's massive ice storm.


They observed how stress on the pregnant women affected their unborn children's development in 'Project Ice Storm.'


The team gathered data on the mothers' degree of hardship caused by the storm, as evaluated by a team of specialists, and compared that information with the moms' own evaluation of her distress. Researchers then compared differences between the two points of view to the children's degree of asthma-like symptoms and autism-like traits.

Results reported in the journal Psychiatry Research show that the greater the mothers' objective hardship from the ice storm (such as more days without electricity), and the greater the mothers' distress about the ice storm 5 months later, the more severe their children's autistic-like traits at 6½ years of age.


The team emphasizes that the children in Project Ice Storm are not autistic; the results describe normal variations among children. These traits include difficulty making friends, being clumsy, speaking in odd ways, etc.

The effect of the mothers' ice storm stress was especially strong when the ice storm happened in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Interestingly, the children with the most severe symptoms had mothers who had had high levels of [physical] hardship from the ice storm but low levels of emotional  distress.


"We have found effects of the mothers' objective hardship from the ice storm (such as the number of days without electricity), or their degree of distress from the storm, on every aspect of child development that we have studied," said Suzanne King, PhD, the senior author of the paper. "This is surprising, since the children in our study are mostly from upper class families and are generally doing extremely well in school and in life."

In May, the team reported in the journal Biomedical Research International that girls whose mothers had had high levels of distress after the ice storm were more likely to have experienced wheezing, to have been diagnosed with asthma by a doctor, and to have been prescribed asthma medication before the age of 12. There was no effect in boys, and there was no effect of the mothers' objective hardship.


These results demonstrate the power of a stressor in pregnancy to influence both the physical development and the mental health of the unborn child.

Project Ice Storm continues to follow the children's development, including brain MRI scans at the age of 16 years starting in September.


"If the stress of the ice storm could have such large effects on these children, helping to explain why some are sicker than others or have more atypical development than others", added Suzanne King, "how much greater would the effects be with an even more stressful event in pregnancy or in disadvantaged families with fewer resources? Our research is showing us how vulnerable the unborn child is to his mother's environment and her mood."

Prenatal maternal stress predicts autism traits in 61⁄2 year-old children: Project Ice Storm
Psychiatry Research

Abstract
Research implicates prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) as a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders; however few studies report PNMS effects on autism risk in offspring. We examined, prospectively, the degree to which objective and subjective elements of PNMS explained variance in autism-like traits among offspring, and tested moderating effects of sex and PNMS timing in utero. Subjects were 89 (46F/ 43M) children who were in utero during the 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. Soon after the storm, mothers completed questionnaires on objective exposure and subjective distress, and completed the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ) for their children at age 61⁄2. ASSQ scores were higher among boys than girls. Greater objective and subjective PNMS predicted higher ASSQ independent of potential confounds. An objective-by-subjective interaction suggested that when subjective PNMS was high, objective PNMS had little effect; whereas when subjective PNMS was low, objective PNMS strongly affected ASSQ scores. A timing-by-objective stress interaction suggested objective stress significantly affected ASSQ in first-trimester exposed children, though less so with later exposure. The final regression explained 43% of variance in ASSQ scores; the main effect of sex and the sex-by-PNMS interactions were not significant. Findings may help elucidate neurodevelopmental origins of non-clinical autism-like traits from a dimensional perspective.

Prenatal Maternal Stress Predicts Childhood Asthma in Girls: Project Ice Storm
Biomedical Research International

Abstract
Little is known about how prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) influences risks of asthma in humans. In this small study, we sought to determine whether disaster-related PNMS would predict asthma risk in children. In June 1998, we assessed severity of objective hardship and subjective distress in women pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. Lifetime asthma symptoms, diagnoses, and corticosteroid utilization were assessed when the children were 12 years old (). No effects of objective hardship or timing of the exposure were found. However, we found that, in girls only, higher levels of prenatal maternal subjective distress predicted greater lifetime risk of wheezing (; 90% CI = 1.01–1.23), doctor-diagnosed asthma (; 90% CI = 1.00–1.19), and lifetime utilization of corticosteroids (; 90% CI = 1.01–1.25). Other perinatal and current maternal life events were also associated with asthma outcomes. Findings suggest that stress during pregnancy opens a window for fetal programming of immune functioning. A sex-based approach may be useful to examine how prenatal and postnatal environments combine to program the immune system. This small study needs to be replicated with a larger, more representative sample.

Among the team of scientists who conducted this study are Suzanne King, and Alain Brunet, from the Psychosocial Research Division of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and from the Department of Psychiatry, (Faculty of Medicine) at McGill University, as well as David P Laplante also from the Douglas Institute. The results of this work have been published in the journals Biomedical Research International (asthma, May 8) and Psychiatry Research (autism, June). Project Ice Storm is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

About the Douglas Institute
The Douglas Institute is a world-class institute affiliated with McGill University and the World Health Organization. It treats people suffering from mental illness and offers them both hope and healing. Its teams of specialists and researchers are constantly increasing scientific knowledge, integrating this knowledge into patient care, and sharing it with the community in order to educate the public and eliminate prejudices surrounding mental health.

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