can a mother's mental health during pregnancy affect her unborn child?Mental health problems during pregnancy can be scary for a soon to be mom. Instead of feeling joyful, most pregnant women experience a variety of emotions that are quite hard to understand. We can be happy about the child and look forward to being a mom, but some of us cannot shake off the feelings of anxiety. Sometimes we feel downright stressed and start asking: “Is there anything wrong with my baby?” or “Why my husband is not as blissful about the child as I thought he would be?” What if I cannot handle childbirth?

These emotions are quite common among pregnant women. Keep in mind, pegnancy is a period of transition, which marks the change to motherhood.  It is quite natural for expectant mothers to harbor stress. However, for some of us, such negative thoughts can take over and push out the feeling of happiness, leaving us anxious and depressed.

But do the mental health problems during pregnancy really have a negative effect on later child’s development? Let’s find out the answer.

Can mental health problems during pregnancy affect the development of children?

Many people would assume that unborn children could be protected from any emotional turmoil of their mothers. However, scientific research and studies on both humans and animals suggest that mental health issues during pregnancy do not only affect the mother, but also have a long-lasting impact on the development of the babies in later life.

There is a physical connection between unborn children with their mother’s emotions. Everything the mom thinks and feels is communicated clearly through neurohormones to the baby, just the same as are nicotine and alcohol. Thus, when she is stressed, or anxious, the negative hormones will release into her bloodstream via the placenta to the child. Many studies have proven that the chemical substances released by the body of pregnant mothers can be transported to the womb and influence the unborn baby.

As a result, mental health problems in mothers will activate the endocrine system in unborn children and affect their fetal brain development. Thus, babies born to mothers who had experienced intense stress during pregnancy are more likely to develop behavioral issues later in life, including  being premature birth, hyperactivity, colick, irritability, and a  lower weight than average.

How to treat mental problems in pregnancy

Helping a pregnant woman with heightened stress and anxiety is not always an easy task. The first thing we need to do is identify women who suffer from mental health problems. Midwives and gynecologists are the most common candidates to take responsibility for this challenge. Once the problems are diagnosed, the next step is to administer effective treatments, depending on medical histor and personality.  There will be no one-size-fits-all solution to all pregnant women with mental health issues.

In general, treatments for mental health problems during pregnancy pregnant are divided into 2 broad types: physical symptom treatments and communication-based treatments. In most cases, the most effective method of reducing anxiety and stress is to combine both solutions in a proper way.

Communication-based treatments involve discussing the worries and anxieties of a pregnant mother and giving modified information to the need of each person. This is  often done in a group session but sometimes done in one-on-one sessions. A group session has the advantage of enabling women to get social support and help from other pregnant women who used to face the same problems. For this reason, this method has gradually become a regular part of prenatal care in many of countries.

Treatments that pay attention to physical symptoms involve sleep advice, support in doing exercises, making dietary decisions, and relaxation sessions. By helping those pregnant women improve their physical well-being, this method also helps to improve their psychological condition, thereby ensuring the normal development of unborn children.

Mental health problems during pregnancy should be taken seriously

To sum up, it is clear that mental health problems during pregnancy should be taken seriously. We know they have serious effects on both the mothers and the babies’ development. However, more studies are needed to give a toolbox of evidence-based treatments for reducing these issues for pregnant women. In addition, healthcare experts and family members should pay more attention to the psychological well-being of women in early stages of pregnancy as this might prevent the development of possible stress, anxiety or depression in the first place.


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