Depression in Mothers Affects Babies’ Brains

Depression in Mothers Affects Babies’ Brains

Tuesday, 28 August, 2018 - 05:30
Children are seen through a baby safety gate as they play at Futaba Baby Home in Tokyo. Reuters file photo
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
A new study has found that children with depressed mothers may end up with altered immune responses and are at greater risk for psychological disorders.

Maternal depression may have a significant effect on the way children’s brains work, the researchers wrote in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

Study leader Ruth Feldman, an adjunct professor at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, said: “If you grow up with a clinically depressed mother, your body’s stress response and immunity are (affected).”

“This is even if the family is of low-risk socioeconomic status, there are two parents and no issues of poverty or physical illness,” Reuters quoted her as saying.

That physical impact can lead to psychological issues, Feldman told the news agency in an email. “This programming of the child’s physiology to high stress reactivity charts a pathway to psychiatric vulnerability,” she explained.

Feldman and her team followed 125 newborn babies until they were 10 years old. When the infants were six months old, the moms were asked to fill out questionnaires designed to look at levels of depression and anxiety. The researchers again touched base with the families when the children were six years old.

When the children were 10, the researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the immune marker secretory immunoglobulin in both mothers and children.

The researchers also observed how the mothers and children interacted and noted whether the children displayed any symptoms of behavioral disorders. Moms and their kids were also interviewed and diagnosed if they had any psychiatric disorders.

Researchers concluded that depressed moms had higher levels of cortisol and secretory immunoglobulin, and displayed more negative parenting. Children of these mothers showed the same result.

Dr. Priya Gopalan, chief of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, said that the findings show the impact a mom’s depression can have on a growing child, and thus, highlight the importance of treatment in mothers.

“Such researches underscore the need to be aggressive at detecting and treating depression,” she added.

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