Mental Health During Pregnancy May Be More Important Than We Thought

Because we don’t have enough things to worry about when pregnant, a new study suggests that depression during pregnancy can increase the risk of depression for those kids by the time they turn 18.

Before you go assuming, as I did, that maybe it’s just a genetic predisposition for depression, please note that the mental state of the dad during the pregnancy had “no effect on the long-term health of the child, which may implicate cortisol in the womb.”

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So a mom-to-be gets a case of the sads, and the stress hormone cortisol is released into her bloodstream, which then apparently affects the developing fetus in the womb. That child is then going to be predisposed to have mental health issues by the time he or she turns 18.

This writer wonders if all the things we’re supposed to worry about when we’re pregnant could create a vicious cycle in which we become stress machines that pop out little depressed babies. Then we get postpartum depression, because who wants a depressed baby? And then the whole thing spirals downward until everybody is on Xanax.

Ok, seriously though, this doesn’t surprise me. There’s definitely some strong connection that happens when you grow a baby, and I can totally see how mom’s state of being while pregnant can affect the child.

For example, I was a nervous wreck when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, because I had suffered a miscarriage previously. She is now my uber-cautious child -- forget about asking her to break the rules, because it isn’t going to happen.

The researchers are hopeful that these findings will encourage more help for women experiencing depression during pregnancy. Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry, said, "The message is clear: helping women who are depressed in pregnancy will not only alleviate their suffering but also the suffering of the next generation.”

Were you depressed during pregnancy? Do you think it affected your kids?


Image via Justin Paget/Corbis

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