According to a study from Singapore, if a pregnant woman is depressive, this affects her baby’s brain structure. The children have a life-long increased risk of developing a mental disease, warn scientists in “Biological Psychiatry”.
157 pregnant women were involved in a study undertaken by the National University of Singapore. They were asked to complete a questionnaire during the 26th week of pregnancy to assess their level of depression. Within two weeks of birth, the brains of newborns were examined using magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging scans.
The volume of the amygdala was similar in all newborns. However, the researchers found that the microstructure of the amygdala was significantly reduced in children born to depressive mothers. A tendency towards an abnormal amygdala function – a feature of mood and anxiety disorders – was apparently already transmitted during pregnancy from the mother to the child, the study concluded.
Mental health screening was therefore recommended already during early pregnancy. The authors working with study leader Anqu Qiu, also said that “interventions targeting maternal depression should begin early in pregnancy”.