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9/11 babies inherit stress

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Pregnant women traumatised by the World Trade Center attacks may have passed a susceptibility to stress on to their newborn babies, researchers say.

Mothers who experienced post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy as a result of witnessing the attacks have been found to have children with abnormally low levels of the hormone cortisol, which is associated with increased stress. This could mean that these children were "programmed" in the womb as a result of their mother's trauma.

Cortisol is produced in response to stress, and increases blood pressure and blood glucose. But severe stress can also cause levels of the hormone to fall, because more of it is being used up.

Previous studies have shown that traumatised mothers are more likely to have children that develop stress disorders themselves. But this has often been blamed on parents recounting their experiences to children.

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