When a stressed-out goat gives birth, her kids are also prone to fear and anxiety, according to a new report published by a group of Norwegian researchers.
The biologists kept small herds of pregnant goats in different pens -- some smaller, some larger -- to create a range of stressful situations. (Tighter quarters results in more stress, even for gregarious dairy goats.) But the experiment "did not expose the goats to conditions other than what is common practice" on farms, the authors are careful to note.
Five weeks after the goat moms gave birth, the scientists evaluated the young goats' anxiety. When left alone in a room for two minutes, kids with the most anxious moms made frequent escape attempts, rearing or running toward the enclosure's walls. Likewise, when the researchers introduced these animals to unfamiliar goats, the young goats bleated and showed other signs of unease.
Pregnancy, of course, is a stressful time for many mammals -- including us. But too much stress can have negative impacts on both moms and children. As a recent medical review shows, stress during human pregnancies is linked to babies with lower birth weights, developmental problems and even infant mortality.