Researchers at the Alberta Children's Hospital have launched a study examining the impact of pregnant women's stress levels on the long-term health of their babies.

"What we're trying to do is understand how the nine months before birth help create healthy babies who have healthy futures," said Dr. Gerry Giesbrecht of the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine, one of the study's four lead investigators.

About 300 Calgary women and their newborns will participate in the three-year, $510,000 study.

The women's stress, anxiety and depression levels will be measured multiple times during pregnancy.

When their babies reach six months of age, they will be hooked up to a heart monitor and put through mild stress tests, including putting a toy in front of the babies but behind a clear plastic screen.

"The way a baby's body responds to frustrating situations provides important information about health outcomes," Giesbrecht said. "It can predict the kinds of emotional and health challenges they will face in the coming years."

The hope is that researchers will be able to understand ways in which a baby's experiences in the womb relate to the risk of long-term health problems, and to use these findings to help mitigate that risk.

Pregnant women interested in participating in the study can find more information and register online.