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Health

Children of women stressed during pregnancy ‘may be more likely to have ADHD’


By Victoria Allen, Daily Mail science editor

16:06 November 16, 2023, updated 16:19 November 16, 2023



Children of women who were stressed during pregnancy may be more likely to have ADHD.

In the UK, it is estimated that three to four per cent of children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can involve impulsivity, difficulty concentrating and restlessness.

A scientific review of 55 studies found that children whose mothers were depressed, anxious or stressed during pregnancy were more likely to have ADHD.

These children were also more likely to act aggressively, such as hitting and fighting, and to show signs of “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD), which involves negative and disruptive behavior, particularly toward negative figures. authority such as parents and teachers.

They were more likely to show signs of “conduct disorder” (CD), which often involves highly antisocial behavior, such as stealing, fighting and vandalism.

A scientific review found that children of mothers who were depressed, anxious or stressed during pregnancy were more likely to have ADHD (stock image)

The analysis included studies involving more than 45,000 participants, primarily focused on depression and anxiety, but also included two studies in which women were asked how stressed they felt during pregnancy.

Their children’s outward behavior, such as hostility and aggression, rather than internalized behavior, such as anxiety, and whether they had ADHD, ODD, and CD, were then examined between ages 2 and 18.

The study found that boys and girls were more likely to show signs of all three conditions and poor behavior if their mothers were more depressed, anxious and stressed during pregnancy.

These mothers may produce stress-related chemicals that can impair their babies’ brain development in the womb, some experts believe.

Brain changes in the womb have been linked to differences in how young children respond to stress and regulate their behavior, leading to behavioral problems.

There may be a good evolutionary reason for this, with a distressed mother’s body signaling to her child in the womb that it is in a threatening environment, so that it can benefit from greater awareness of the threats and a stronger response when they emerge. in the world.

READ MORE: Two thirds of maternity units are unsafe: damning verdict from regulator as experts blame midwife shortage on ‘unacceptable’ NHS standards

Dr Irene Tung, who led the study at California State University, said: ‘Our research suggests that psychological distress during the pregnancy period has a small but persistent effect on the risk of aggressive behaviors, disinhibited and impulsive in children.”

“These findings confirm that providing widely accessible mental health care and support during pregnancy can be a crucial step in helping prevent child behavior problems.”

The analysis, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, found a stronger link between distress during pregnancy and poor behavior or ADHD, ODD and CD in children in early childhood, aged two to five.

The link was weaker for older children, aged six to 12, and for adolescents aged 13 to 18.

Behaviors and conditions were mainly reported by parents, but also by teachers.

They have been linked to pregnancy-related stress, anxiety, and depression, even after researchers took into account women’s stress levels after the birth of their children.

However, the link between distress and children’s behavior, although significant, was found to be weak.

Gn Health

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