Women suffering from depression and anxiety during pregnancy are more prone to having babies with brain impairments that are related to childhood behavioral disorders, a new study indicates.
The researchers surveyed 101 women who were asked to fill out questionnaires about symptoms of depression and anxiety in the third trimester of their pregnancy. Six of them had signs of significant depression, five had moderate symptoms, while 42 suffered mild depression. Afterward, using MRI scans of the babies’ brains at one-month, the researchers pinpointed more disturbances in brain structure in the children of those mothers who had experienced at least mild depressive signs during pregnancy.
“Our study suggests that moderate levels of depression and anxiety in pregnancy would be associated with variations in white matter microstructure or brain wiring’ at one month of age,” the lead author, Douglas Dean III, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, concluded.
Untreated depression during pregnancy might alter the baby’s brain
Patterns ranged from boys to girls, “which would be associated with different developmental trajectories and the differentiated effect of certain early experiences,” Dean commented.
One in five pregnant women experience depression and anxiety, and there is growing concern regarding their association with children’s emotional and behavioral issues, the research team reported in JAMA Pediatrics.
Scientists discovered a connection between depression and maternal anxiety and specific alterations in the microstructure of the babies’ brain’s white matter, which is involved in the communication between the brain’s different regions.
Neglecting depression during the pregnancy and not treating this conditions can impact the weight of the baby at birth, and the baby might need intensive care at birth. Pregnant women with unrestrained depression do not feed themselves properly or do not follow antenatal check-ups and, in more severe cases, may try to commit suicide.
In short, untreated depression during pregnancy might alter the baby’s brain causing emotional and behavioral issues in childhood.