Pregnancy Boosts Awareness of Bad Vibes

Researchers say finding fits with protective evolutionary adaptation
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2009 12:03 PM CST
Pregnancy Boosts Awareness of Bad Vibes
A pregnant woman with some special insight.   (Shutterstock)

Women get wiser to the emotional states of upset and angry people around them as their pregnancies progress, perhaps as a way for mothers-to-be to recognize threats. A study asked women to identify the emotions of people in a set of photographs in their first trimester and again near the end of the third. The late-term subjects were much better at identifying fear, anger, sadness, and disgust.

The findings are “consistent with evolutionary theory,” the researchers tell the Washington Post. “Hypervigilance towards signals of threat and harm would be a selective advantage for women who are about to become mothers.” The change accompanies a spike in estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. There was little difference between the women’s reactions to positive emotions early and late in pregnancy. (More scientific study stories.)

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