NEW ORLEANS - A local doctor found through her research that children exposed to trauma and stress, or who grow up in a crowded orphanage, not only had brain and behavior changes, but shorter lives.
Now she's looking at how the mother-baby bond could protect against future disease and toxic stress, and you could qualify for the study.
First time mom Charline Gipson was put under video surveillance as she smiled and sang to her baby.
Watching her behavior and the reaction of her 5-month-old Quinn from another room, was Tulane child psychiatrist and geneticist Dr. Stacy Drury. There's never been a study before to find out if bonding early in life can protect the child's physical health throughout life.
"In this case, could moms sort of be a biological bubble wrap that kind of protects kids from those exposures that we can't necessarily stop," said Dr. Stacy Drury referring to home and community violence an the stress from hurricanes.
Doctors know stress during pregnancy affects and can hurt the developing baby throughout life, and should be avoided. But could that very important early bonding change the course of a person's physical health? And can doctors actually see it in our genetics, making our cells live longer and age more slowly?
We're all born with a natural need to get our parents' attention and children who do have that at a young age, are more likely to grow up with higher self esteem and better coping skills.
But could that bonding also shield you from disease and toxic stress for decades. When Charline was told to have no facial or emotional interaction with Quinn, he squirmed and looked around to find attention somewhere else.
As an attorney, Charline had stressful deadlines while pregnant. This study is teaching her the importance of reducing stress in each family member's life.
"It makes me more mindful. It actually makes me think about how I can plan ahead to alleviate some of the stressful triggers," said Gipson, who is one of the 140 mothers who already joined the study.
"My schedule's definitely changed, more helping out with feeding, changing diapers, just being a team player," said Quinn's father Rick Gipson.
Tulane is looking for a total of 500 expectant mothers to join the free study. You will meet with the doctor three times and possibly two more times when your baby is older.
To sign up call 504-656-6449.