Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Babies born to depressed moms have higher levels of stress hormones, decreased muscle tone

Date:
December 9, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
The cocktail of hormones cascading through depressed mothers' bodies may play an important role in the development of their unborn children's brains. A higher level of depression in mothers during pregnancy was associated with higher levels of stress hormones in their children at birth, as well as with other neurological and behavioral differences, a new study found.

The cocktail of hormones cascading through depressed mothers' bodies may play an important role in the development of their unborn children's brains.

Related Articles


A higher level of depression in mothers during pregnancy was associated with higher levels of stress hormones in their children at birth, as well as with other neurological and behavioral differences, a University of Michigan-led study found.

"The two possibilities are that they are either more sensitive to stress and respond more vigorously to it, or that they are less able to shut down their stress response," says the study's lead investigator, Delia M. Vazquez, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The analysis, which appears online ahead of print publication in Infant Behavior and Development, examined links between maternal depression and the development of an infants' neuroendocrine system, which controls the body's stress response, as well as moods and emotions.

At two weeks old, researchers found that the children of depressed mothers had decreased muscle tone compared to those born to mothers who weren't depressed, yet they adjusted more quickly to stimuli like a bell, rattle or light -- a sign of neurological maturity.

"It's difficult to say to what extent these differences are good or bad, or what impact they might have over a longer time frame," says the study's lead author, Sheila Marcus, M.D., clinical director of U-M's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section.

"We're just beginning to look at these differences as part of a whole collection of data points that could be risk markers. These in turn would identify women who need attention during pregnancy or mother/infant pairs who might benefit from postpartum programs known to support healthy infant development through mom/baby relationships."

The longer-term question for researchers is the degree to which the hormonal environment in the uterus may act as a catalyst for processes that alter infant gene expression, neuroendocrine development and brain circuitry -- potentially setting the stage for increased risk for later behavioral and psychological disorders.

While cautioning against alarm, the researchers recommended that mothers experiencing symptoms of depression during pregnancy talk to a therapist. They also noted that interventions aimed and mother-child bonding after birth can act as countermeasures, stimulating children's neurological development and lowering the possible effects of stress hormone production early in life.

Post-partum depression is one of the most common complications of pregnancy and up to 1 in 5 women may experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

Along with tracking the mothers' depressive symptoms throughout gestation, U-M researchers took samples of umbilical cord blood right after birth. They found elevated levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in babies born to mothers with depression. ACTH tells the adrenal gland to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels, however, were similar in children of mothers with varying levels of depression, likely an indication of the high level of stress associated with the birth itself, the researchers note.

The impact of mothers' depression on fetuses and newborns has generated a considerable amount of research in recent years. Previous studies have shown that babies born to women with severe depression may be more likely to be born prematurely or underweight, have diminished hand-to-mouth coordination and be less cuddly.

Methodology: The study was done on a population of 154 pregnant women, who were over the age of 20, had no plans to move in the 2-year study period, no adoption plans, no chronic medical conditions or medications that would impact the study, no substance abuse issues, no eating disorders and no bipolar illness. The mothers' depressive symptoms were assessed at 28, 32 and 37 weeks of gestation and again at birth. From their scores, the women were placed into three groups: low, intermediate and high depression. Blood samples were taken from the infants' umbilical cords at birth to measure ACTH and cortisol levels. At two weeks, the infants were given a neurobehavioral evaluation that assessed items like response to stimuli, motor skills and response to stress. Statistical analyses were then done to look for patterns within and among the groups.

Additional U-M authors: Juan F. Lopez, M.D.; Susan McDonough, Ph.D., M.S.W.; Heather Flynn, Ph.D.; Brenda Volling, Ph.D.; Niko Kaciroti, Ph.D.

Other authors: Michael J. MacKenzie, Columbia University; Charles R. Neal Jr., University of Hawaii; Sheila Gahagan, University of California, San Diego.

Funding: National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, U-M Depression Center and Department of Psychology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sheila Marcus, Juan F. Lopez, Susan McDonough, Michael J. MacKenzie, Heather Flynn, Charles R. Neal Jr., Sheila Gahagan, Brenda Volling, Niko Kaciroti, Delia M. Vazquez. Depressive symptoms during pregnancy: Impact on neuroendocrine and neonatal outcomes. Infant Behavior and Development, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2010.07.002

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Babies born to depressed moms have higher levels of stress hormones, decreased muscle tone." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101209101352.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2010, December 9). Babies born to depressed moms have higher levels of stress hormones, decreased muscle tone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101209101352.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Babies born to depressed moms have higher levels of stress hormones, decreased muscle tone." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101209101352.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins