A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan School of Medicine suggests that babies whose moms suffered from depression during pregnancy have lower muscle tone, higher levels of stress hormones, posing a risk for neurological and developmental problems. The babies’ neuroendocrine system, which controls mood, emotions and stress response were found to be affected.
“The two possibilities are that [the infants] are either more sensitive to stress and respond more vigorously to it, or that they are less able to shut down their stress response,” explained lead investigator Dr. Delia M. Vazquez, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
154 pregnant women were tested for depression for the study. After giving birth, their babies’ umbilical blood was taken to be checked for stress hormone levels. After two weeks, the infants were tested for their motor and skills responses to stimuli. The results showed that the babies were in some way affected by their mothers being depressed during pregnancy.
Said lead author Dr. Sheila Marcus, clinical director of U-M’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section, “It’s difficult to say to what extent these differences (in babies born to mothers with depression) are good or bad, or what impact they might have over a longer period of time.”
The team of researchers hopes this study helps depressed pregnant women to seek help or consult an expert. One out of five women are estimated to experience depression during pregnancy.
SOURCES: • December 18, 2010. “Study Looks at How Depression During Pregnancy Affects Infant’s Health,” GrowingYourBaby.com • Robert Preidt. “Depression During Pregnancy Might Affect Baby” Health.MSN.com