Moms’ stress, depression affect babies in womb
Children at higher risk for problems later in life, new study finds

By listening intently to movements and heartbeats, researchers are finding that the fetuses of mothers who are stressed or depressed respond differently from those of emotionally healthy women.

After birth, studies indicate, these babies have a significantly increased risk of developing learning and behavioral problems, and they may themselves be more vulnerable to depression or anxiety as they age.

The studies, researchers caution, are preliminary. Stress or depression during a mother’s pregnancy is only one among many influences that affect an infant’s development. Even among mothers who are depressed or highly stressed, the rate of emotional and behavioral problems in children is still very low.

“The last thing pregnant women need is to have something else to worry about,” said Dr. Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Still, the studies reflect growing evidence that stress and depression can have early and lasting effects on a child’s life.