Depression in pregnancy may affect babies' brains, a new study suggests

Ciara Sheppard
Contributor
A new study has found a link between depression in pregnancy and babies brain functioning. [Photo: Getty]

Women suffering from depression and anxiety during pregnancy might be more likely to have babies with ‘altered brain development’, a study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked 101 women to complete questionnaires regarding symptoms of poor mental health during their third trimester.

Of the women tested, six showed symptoms of major depression, five were considered moderately depressed and 42 showed symptoms of mild depression.

Once the babies were roughly one month old, researchers took MRIs of their brains to find that there were more alterations in brain structure among the babies born to women who experience moderate levels of depression and more.

Female suicide rates are at their highest in a decade, while suicide is still the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK. [Photo: Getty]

Lead study author Douglas Dean III told Business Insider: “Our study suggests that moderate levels of maternal depression and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy were associated with variations in the brain’s white matter microstructure or ‘wiring’ at one month of age.

The study showed that patterns were different in boys and girls, “which may be related to boys and girls having different developmental trajectories and being differentially impacted by certain early life experiences,” he told the publication. 

The study concludes its findings by saying: “These data highlight the importance of the prenatal period to early brain development and suggest that the underlying white matter microstructure is associated with the continuum of prenatal maternal depression and anxiety symptoms.”

Obviously, this is just one fairly small study and more would have to be done to make final conclusions on depression in pregnancy.

However, if you are suffering – pregnant or not – there are many ways to seek help. 

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