Depression during pregnancy is considered a risk to both a mom and baby’s health for a number of reasons. Now a new study has linked depression and anxiety to lower birth weight, and low birth weight is linked to a considerably higher risk of health problems. The study, conducted in Bangladesh, found that this connection between a mom’s emotional state and a baby’s size held true across economic status and nutritional health of the mother.
Researchers have a few different theories about the link.
Depressed people don’t always take great care of themselves. So the low birth weight could be a byproduct of less than ideal prenatal care. The lower weight could be a result of undiagnosed problems with the baby, with the mother, or a combination.
Depression and anxiety can interfere with appetite and/or weight gain in the mother which can translate to a lack of calories for the fetus.
The depression itself could be causing chemical changes that affect weight gain in the fetus.
The same thing that’s triggering the depression in the mother could be interfering with weight gain in the fetus.
The study is one among many on the connection between maternal mental state and fetal birth weight. Many previous studies showed a much less conclusive link, or none at all. It’s possible that these discrepancies are caused by differences in evaluation methods or environment. But however inconclusive, this study does lend muscle to one important idea: depression is a complicated issue that must be taken seriously in pregnancy.