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Babies born to depressed mothers have high levels of stress hormones

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Mothers who experienced depression during their pregnancy may want to consider cortisol testing for their children. A new study has found that the offspring of depressed mothers frequently have high levels of the stress hormone, which may lead to many health complications.

High cortisol levels have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems later in life. However, the researchers said that the results may be more immediate in youth. Elevated stress hormone levels can impact the formation of parts of a child's brain that play a role in mood and emotions.

For the study, researchers assessed the mental health of 154 pregnant women. Blood tests revealed the hormone levels of the newborns. Children who had the highest levels of cortisol were found to be less cuddly and have less hand-to-mouth coordination.

"The two possibilities are that they are either more sensitive to stress and respond more vigorously to it, or that they are less able to shut down their stress response," said Delia M. Vazquez, who led the investigation.

She added that the findings could help identify women who could benefit from counseling during pregnancy as well as mother-child pairings who might need more attention following birth.

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