According to The Guardian on Wednesday, new research suggests that levels of stress hormone cortisol, which are raised in depression, can influence development of fetus.
Teenagers could run a significantly higher risk of becoming depressed if their mothers suffered the condition while they were in the womb.
Researchers warn that the extra threat for 18-year-olds could be one-and-a-half times higher than for the children of those free of the illness.
Experts are convinced that stress hormones in the womb are likely to play a key role. This is because there was no link between depression suffered by the father before birth and their child’s mental status as a teenager.
The research analysed parents and children from the ongoing UK Children of the 90s study.
The study found:
• Children were more likely to have depression at age 18 if their mothers were depressed during their pregnancy (measured using self-reported depression questionnaires).
• Postpartum depression was a risk factor among mothers with less education, and their children were more likely to suffer from depression at age 18.
• Depression in male partners during pregnancy did not impact a child's risk of later depression, but they did show similar patterns to women when it came to post-pregnancy depression.
"They seemed to be different patterns of risk," Pearson told The Plain Dealer. "With the depression after birth, there was quite striking protection by having higher education, almost to the point that it kind of wiped out the effect [in the children]. This wasn't the case [with prenatal depression]."
Researchers don't know why women who had achieved higher levels of education were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. They suspect it may have to do with more access to social services or other resources, but hope to pursue ongoing research in the area.
Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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