The Effects of a Mother’s Psychology on the Baby During Pregnancy
Your psychology has a deep, long-lasting effect on your entire body. During pregnancy, depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions in the mother can cause physical changes, including impaired fetal growth, as well as mental effects, such as behavioral problems during childhood.
Impact of Depression on Child’s Psychology
According to at 2011 article from the “Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,” male infants are developmentally sensitive to their mother’s psychological state during pregnancy; specifically, the study investigated the impact of prenatal depression on male infant development. The researchers scored the pregnant women for depression during pregnancy, and then screened only the male children as newborns and toddlers for behavioral problems. The data showed that “depression during pregnancy may affect infant development in a way that is related to gender”; the women who were depressed during pregnancy were more likely to have a child with generalized anxiety, sleep problems, or overactive/impulsive disorders.
Measurably Impact of Prenatal Depression
On a gross level, prenatal depression in the mother has several effects on the fetus: an increase in fetal activity, delay of prenatal growth, and low weight at birth often occur. Research from the journal “Infant Behavior and Development” reports that the newborns’ biochemical profile was similar to that of their depressed mothers. During depression, the mother’s body produces high levels of cortisol, decreased levels of dopamine and serotonin, increased frontal lobe activation and decreased vagal tone. All of these physiological changes are reflected in the newborns’ biochemical profiles.
Effect of Mother’s Anxiety and Depression
A study from the University of Minho School of Psychology associated prenatal anxiety and depression in the mother with an increased risk of impaired fetal growth and excessive fetal activity. There also appears to be decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the fetus in depressed mothers because of the increased arterial pressure, which may further impair fetal growth.
Drug Abuse and Dependance
According to a 2003 article from the journal “Substance Use and Misuse,” a women’s use of cigarettes, marijuana and heroin was a strong predictor of low birth weight. Drug abuse and dependence are considered psychological disorders by the DSM-IV, a diagnostic manual for mental disorders. Substances with strong addictive potential induce a chemical dependence, which may require medical intervention, such as psychotherapy.