Depression during pregnancy changes the structure of the fetal brain, scientists found

The structure of the departments of the brain of the newborn responsible for the emotional state changes, in the case of a depressed state of the expectant mother during pregnancy, scientists from Singapore said in an article published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Depression is a common mental disorder that, according to WHO, affects more than 350 million people worldwide. It is generally accepted that people in a depressed state are characterized by health problems, low self-esteem, motor inhibition, and if the expectant mother suffers from depression, the fetus is also at risk. Previously, scientists learned that a child has abnormalities in the brain that are involved in the formation of emotions – amygdala, the so-called cerebellar tonsils. However, since the baby’s condition was studied for several years after his birth, it was not clear how exactly these violations occur.

Anqi Qiu from the National University of Singapore and colleagues invited 157 pregnant women to study. At week 26, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire from which scientists could determine if the future mother suffered from depression. For example, did she have trouble sleeping, did she have panic attacks, how active and energetic she was. At the second stage of scientific research, newborns were already about two weeks old. Using magnetic resonance therapy (MRI), scientists examined the amygdala in their brain.

It turned out that the volume of cerebellar tonsils in children was the same, despite the fact that their mothers suffered depression during pregnancy or not. However, the structure of the amygdala located in the right hemisphere of the brain changed: in children of “depressed” mothers, the ability of nerve cell processes to exchange information with each other was lower.

According to the authors of the article, such children as they grow older can become prone to mental disorders, therefore, it is necessary to assess the state of mental health of a woman from the moment she finds out about pregnancy. 

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