Study Shows How Pregnancy-Related Anxiety May Effect Unborn Babies
When it comes to anxiety, we all know that if we could make it go away, we would. But this study by Aalto University and the University of Turku in Finland makes us feel that way now more than ever. Most people are aware that stress during pregnancy is not a good thing, but now researchers have found preliminary evidence that self-reported pregnancy-related anxieties (including stress about the pregnancy itself, giving birth, changes in the mother’s physical appearance or health, and the health of the unborn child) mid-pregnancy may have an effect on babies inside the womb.
In fact, those who said they experienced these particular anxieties around 24-weeks of pregnancy had babies who were less responsive to sad-sounding speeches. Whether this means the child is experiencing lower levels of empathy or is simply not able to ascertain sadness in sound was inconclusive.
“Areas of the baby’s brain that deal with emotion and speech were less active when listening to sad speech if the baby’s mothers had reported high pregnancy-related anxiety,” said Dr. Ilkka Nissilä, an Aalto University research fellow who co-authored the study.
Interestingly, the same study found that if an expectant mother is experiencing those same pregnancy-related anxieties just ten weeks later, at 34-weeks, the baby had more brain activity while listening to sad speeches.
It’s interesting that this study was performed with only 19 mother-child pairs. Science Daily notes, “Studying a larger group would make it possible to understand the behavioral implications of the observed changes.”
This is not the first study that has found a correlation between expectant mothers with anxiety and their future children. In fact, a 2004 study would that general anxiety during pregnancy may lead to higher susceptibility to ADHD within the child. There have also been studies that suggest an impact on the height, weight, and blood-flow of their baby once it’s born and even found a significant effect on children’s psychiatric disorders. This newest study adds an additional piece to the puzzle of figuring out how anxiety in mothers can affect their babies, if it matters where their anxiety is coming from, and how to prevent it.