UH studying stress of Hurricane Harvey and pregnancy

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Researchers at the University of Houston are hoping to find some good from all the bad that Harvey wrought and help future generations of children born into stress-filled environments.

Five-month-old Justin Frederick is one of those babies. He was born two weeks after Harvey stormed through southeast Texas. His mother, Chandra, remembers the waters surrounding their Spring neighborhood and threatening the safety of her three older children and husband Joey.

"I was seeing the people having to evacuate to the roof and I was like, 'how am I going to do this if it gets to that point?'" she said. "I was getting really worried about the rain and what was going on. "

She is one of 72,000 women who the University of Houston expects to give birth in our area within the year after Harvey. These women were pregnant during the storm or in its stressful aftermath.

Dr. Johanna Bick is a researcher at UH who sees that as an opportunity and a chance to learn what kind of effects, if any, natural disasters have on unborn children. Because Harvey impacted such a wide area, the research can include women from varying backgrounds. It's an emerging field of study.

"We've learned from animal research that very high levels of stress can have an impact on offspring," said Dr. Bick, who is working with researchers in Canada on the four-year project. "If we can reduce mom's stress and it lasts across the pregnancy, then maybe we can promote better birth outcomes, reduce prematurity and even support healthy infant development."

The program already has 20 women signed up for the study and hope to have as many as 1,000.

Frederick sees no ill effects in Justin. She hopes, though, that her participation may help other mothers in the future.

If you want to participate, click here to learn more about the study.
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