A stressful pregnancy could cause long-term damage to the child's health, doctors have warned.

Major stresses, such as separation or bereavement, can have a dramatic impact on children's health by the age of four, scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, claimed in a new report.

More than 150 mothers-to-be were asked about stressful events they'd gone through early on in their pregnancy and then a few weeks before giving birth. Stressful events asked about included unemployment, bereavement, a difficult pregnancy and separation.

To check the impact of stress, the women were then asked about their child's health four years later, and whether they'd required any hospital attention since birth, or if the child had experienced bouts of ill-health.

Speaking at the British Association for Psychopharmacology's annual conference, the researchers claimed that there was a clear link between stress in pregnancy and early years' ill-health.

Researcher Jasmin Wertz said that the findings suggest: "the stress experienced during pregnancy induces biological changes in the unborn child that render it susceptible to the development of illness later in life."

The scientists urged pregnant women to seek help if they were experiencing stress, and said often, the long-term benefits to the child of taking anti-depressants during pregnancy could outweigh the small risk of side-effects, such as birth defects.

Posted by Robert Mair on 31 July 2012 by Robert Mair