Does a Pregnant Mother’s Depression Affect Her Child’s Life?

AddictedtoBeingPregnantGiving birth to a baby is a major life event. For nine months a woman’s body undergoes all manner of changes as the tiny life within her grows and develops. Then, after the intense experience of delivery, she is suddenly responsible for another human life. To top it all off, a roller coaster of hormones leave some women feeling very unsure of themselves. This is what pregnancy and birth is like for mom, but the baby is also affected. Research suggests that if mom is depressed during pregnancy or just after birth, the child faces a heightened risk for depression later in life.

It’s now believed that a mother’s stress hormones could be crossing the placenta and putting the unborn child at risk for future depression. A British study of 4,500 kids and their parents suggests that a mother’s emotional health very likely influences the child’s emotional development.

In the study women in 1991- 1992 were questioned about depression two times while pregnant and two more times in the year after giving birth. When the babies reached age 18 they too were surveyed for symptoms of depression. The study found that 12 percent of the moms were depressed while they were pregnant and seven percent became depressed after childbirth. Around eight percent of the tested teens had some depressive symptoms but the teens were nearly 50 percent more apt to be depressed if mom was while she was carrying them.

In terms of mothers who became depressed after giving birth, it is generally believed that new moms who experience postpartum depression may be less equipped to respond and care for their infant which, in turn, may impact later emotional stability in the child.

None of the findings from the study are conclusive, but they are noteworthy. Researchers here in the U.S. say that mom’s depression could be transferred in utero, but that genetics may also play a part.

A mother best serves her own needs, and by extension the needs of her child, when she takes an active role in dealing with her depression. While there is controversy about whether or not pregnant mothers should use anti-depressants, there is no controversy about talking with a counselor and learning strategies to combat depression - dealing with it early and definitively is one of the best ways she may be able to protect her child.


Posted on November 25th, 2014

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