As we have discussed previously, a mother’s depression can affect her child. This includes depression in pregnancy.
Depression can negatively impact bonding and attachment. It can slow cognitive development. The longer the depression goes on, the more harmful effects may occur. Research shows that children who are abused or emotionally neglected have actual structural changes to their brain that predispose them to depression later in life. Babies are also impacted in the womb when their mothers are depressed in pregnancy. Don’t freak out, though. There’s good news.
On the very positive side, as reported in Science Daily, “research shows that fetuses exposed to high levels of stress hormone — shown to be a harbinger for babies’ poor cognitive development — can escape this fate if their mothers provide them sensitive care during infancy and toddler-hood.”
The new study represents the first, direct human evidence that fetuses exposed to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may have trouble paying attention or solving problems later on. But what may be more intriguing is the study’s second finding — that this negative link disappears almost entirely if the mother forges a secure connection with her baby.
This is great news. The researchers, whose study is published in Biological Psychiatry, found that having a secure relationship with mom eliminated whatever negative effects stress, depression and anxiety during pregnancy would have caused, at least with regard to cognitive development.
If this isn’t an argument for reaching out for professional help if you have anxiety or depression during pregnancy or postpartum, I don’t know what is. The sooner you can get better, the sooner you are able to provide the kind of care that it would seem may counteract and even eliminate any negative effects that might have been created while you were ill. I know for me, at least, that is a huge comfort.