Myth: Maternal Depression Does not Affect Fetal Wellbeing
Fact: Depression during pregnancy does indeed impact the unborn child. Depressed mothers have elevated levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine in their bloodstream; this crosses the placenta to enter the bloodstream of the unborn child. In addition, symptoms of depression engender a host of destructive behaviors: smoking, poor weight gain, and the use of alcohol or cocaine. Excess maternal stress may also affect a child's ability to learn. Excessive exposure to stress affects the physiology of brain. Prenatal stress causes a real rewiring, setting the stage for a range of life-long stress-prone reactions, from heightened irritability to behavior problems.
Depressed mothers are likelier to have babies who cry excessively and are difficult to console: The more depressed the mother, the more irritable the newborn. Often depression during pregnancy will continue as postpartum depression: This may be exacerbated by an irritable infant, making it even more difficult for mother and baby to bond, and possibly activating a lifelong cycle of depression and irritability. Emotional support is important. Whether the issue is grief, stress, or depression, recognizing and sharing these feelings with a sympathetic person can lighten the oppression for mother and child. Programs offering emotional support and teaching coping and parenting skills can assist greatly in alleviating depressive feelings and fostering a successful labor and delivery.
Suzanne Arms, Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth
Thomas R. Verny, Preparenting: Nurturing Your Baby from Conception