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December 06, 2007
Mental Health Starts During Pregnancy: Lower Birth Weight Babies Have More Mental Problems
Read more... Schizophrenia Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention
A new research study has confirmed the relationship between low birth weight and the later development of mental health problems. The study, which is published in this month's issue of the journal, Biological Psychiatry, looked at data collected during a large and long-running study.
Over 4,600 participants of the original study, which was conducted in survey form, were "tracked...in Great Britain...for symptoms of anxiety and depression over a 40-year period" beginning with their births in 1946.
Researchers of the recent study analyzed this data and found that participants with low birth weights were more likely to later exhibit symptoms of both depression and anxiety:
We found that even people who had just mild or moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety over their life course were smaller babies than those who had better mental health," said lead author Ian Colman of the University of Alberta's School of Public Health. "It suggests a dose-response relationship. As birth weight progressively decreases, it's more likely that an individual will suffer from mood disorders later in life.
Researchers of the study believe the results further support the idea that conditions in the womb have a direct impact on the long-term health of the baby. However, mental health doesn't seem to be the only thing negatively affected by conditions in the womb; the researchers also discovered that babies with lower birth weights showed developmental delays in the areas of standing, walking, etc. (problems that have been identified at a higher rate in studies of children that later develop schizophrenia).
Its important to note that the researchers aren't saying that a small baby is inevitably going to experience developmental or mental health related problems - just that they have a higher risk of these problems (and therefore it may be more important to look at risk reduction strategies that we've outlined here). Further, the data had no information on gestational period, so the researchers didn't analyze any data connecting premature babies to later mental health or developmental problems (premature babies are generally of low birth weight, and also have a higher incidence of health problems).
The researchers, however, bring up a topic that we've covered in the past: stress and its effect on a child. They say that it isn't the size of the baby necessarily, but rather the cause of the small size, that's of importance here. For example, they say that stress experienced by the future mother during pregnancy is a possible cause of low birth weight in the baby, and resulting future mental health and developmental problems for the baby:
When a mother is really stressed, blood flow to the uterus is restricted and the fetus gets fewer nutrients, which tends to lead to lower birth weight. At the same time, because the mother is stressed, stress hormones are passing through the placenta to the fetus and may affect the fetus's neurodevelopment and stress response...Under these conditions, the part of the child's brain that deals with stress could be programmed incorrectly in utero--the brain doesn't develop as it would under ideal circumstances. If this theory is correct, you would find that when stressful events occur, the people who were smaller babies would be more likely to become depressed or anxious...
The researchers conclude by saying that pregnant women should be better taken care of and that stress during pregnancy has potentially serious negative consequences on the future health of the fetus.
Also relevant to this story are other findings on actions that help pregnant women have healthy babies. Some important dietary components relevant to pregnancy are:
Full Story: Study finds smaller babies prone to mood disorder later in life (University of Alberta)
Posted by szadmin at December 6, 2007 05:10 PM
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