of Mother's Chronic
Depression Can Affect Newborn
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Women who are chronically depressed throughout their
pregnancy may pass their distress along to their infants, according
to research presented recently at the annual meeting of the American
who are depressed during pregnancy, there is transmission of some
of the stress hormones to the fetus,'' said Dr. Tiffany Field,
director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of
Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida.
have known that depressed mothers, who may be emotionally unavailable
to their infants, often have children who are more irritable,
have erratic sleep patterns and are less responsive. However,
the researchers suggested that the depressed mother's biochemical
imbalance and the time of the onset of her depression might play
a role in these symptoms as well.
examined a group of one-week old newborns born to 80 women who
reported they were chronically depressed before and after pregnancy,
depressed only during pregnancy, depressed only after pregnancy,
or not at all.
found that the newborns of the chronically depressed women had
elevated levels of biochemical stress hormones associated with
depression such as cortisol and norepinephrine, and lower levels
is showing the same biochemical profile the mothers were showing
prenatally,'' Field said. ``From a biochemical standpoint, they
are mimicking their mother's profiles.''
of chronically depressed women also had brain wave abnormalities
that mimicked an adult with depression and were more likely to
be irritable and sleep erratically.
to mothers with depression only during the pregnancy also showed
signs of elevated stress hormone levels and abnormal brain wave
activity, but to a lesser degree than the chronically depressed
the infants born to women who reported suffering only postpartum
depression still showed some signs of disrupted sleep patterns,
indicating that the mother's behavior or genetic factors may still
play a contributing role in the newborn's behavior.
we need to start screening prepartum women and looking at potential
interventions for them,'' Field said. However, she said, research
has been mixed on whether depression medications are safe for
pregnant women. ``We don't know whether the effects of depression
are worse than the effects of the medication,'' she noted.
Reference Source 89