It is an age-old theory that emotional problems during pregnancy may affect the unborn baby. To examine the authenticity of this theory, a study was conducted recently to find out whether high levels of anxiety during pregnancy could affect the unborn baby and result in behavioral problems in them later on.
The study was conducted on 70 mothers and their firstborn children. The anxiety state of the mother was measured with the help of a special questionnaire called the ‘State Trait Anxiety Inventory’. When the children were 8 or 9 years of age, their behavior was assessed with the help of questionnaires filled by their respective mothers, teachers and an impartial observer. The results showed that mothers who experienced high levels of anxiety between 12-22 weeks of pregnancy were at increased risk of giving birth to babies who would be more likely to develop behavioral problems around 8-9 years of age. Overall, maternal anxiety during this period explained between 9 percent and 22 percent of the variance in childhood problems investigated during the study (these included attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, acting out, or anxiety in school age children).
The researchers also concluded that anxiety at 12-22 weeks of pregnancy was infact a more strong predictor of behavioral problems in children as compared to other risk factors such as smoking during pregnancy, low birth weight etc.
Hence, the study proves that anxiety during pregnancy may contribute to some alterations in child’s neurobehavioral development, making it imperative to identify anxiety as early as possible in mothers-to-be and managing them accordingly especially, during the high-risk period (i.e. 12-22 weeks of pregnancy).