Ever wonder if your PPD is affecting your baby? What about the effect of perinatal depression on an unborn child?
A new study published in the Journal of Traditional Psychiatry says pregnant women with perinatal depression may be affecting their unborn child on a biological level, potentially putting them “at risk for developing a range of neuropsychiatric disorders.”
This is not to scare women with perinatal depression. This is to drive home the message of how important it is for us to find the underlying causes of perinatal and PPD so we can enact appropriate screening and treatment for the health of the mother and the child.
Perinatal depression occurs in 10-15% of women in the U.S. according to the study.
Although we know mental health disorders can be genetic, the intent of the study was to look at the “neurobiological processes” by which prenatal depression can affect a child in the womb and beyond.
What they did was look at how the baby’s amygdala pre-frontal cortex was fairing in the third trimester of a pregnant woman with perinatal depression.
The amygdala is part of our limbic system located in the brain. The limbic system is comprised of the parts of our brain that regulate emotion, behaviour and motivation. The amygdala pre-frontal cortex helps with regulating moods such as anxiety and depression.
The study used MRIs to determine that the amygdala pre-frontal cortex in unborn infants of women with perinatal depression was demonstrating “atypical connectivity”. The infants also had an increased heart rate.
According to scientific research, altered amygdala-prefrontal connectivity has been implicated in pediatric depression.
Notes the study: “These findings suggest a potential for very early identification of risk phenotypes for the purposes of primary intervention, as well as the possibility that familial risk for psychopathology occurs, in part, through the transmission of pregnant women’s psychiatric symptoms to their children.”