Maternal happiness during pregnancy linked to child’s brain development


In a current examine revealed within the journal Nature Mental Health, researchers explored the connection between maternal psychological well being and youngsters’s mind improvement. Their outcomes contribute to the medical understanding of the significance of the intrauterine atmosphere and counsel that along with optimistic outcomes for the mom, emotional well-being throughout being pregnant may be an vital protecting issue for mind improvement in kids.

Research: Maternal positive mental health during pregnancy impacts the hippocampus and functional brain networks in children. Picture Credit score: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock


Analysis means that melancholy, anxiousness, and stress throughout being pregnant can have enduring antagonistic results on the kid’s mind improvement. Maternal anxiousness and melancholy have been discovered to have an effect on grey matter density within the medial temporal and prefrontal cortex in addition to hippocampal development.

Maternal well being components may also modify the cortico-limbic system, which helps regulate stress responses and emotional states. These widespread results have been noticed to be extra distinguished in feminine kids between start and early childhood. These findings spotlight the necessity to handle prenatal psychological well being to advertise mind improvement in kids.

Nevertheless, emotional well-being isn’t merely the absence of psychological sickness but in addition consists of the expertise of optimistic feelings and psychological have an effect on. Whereas the impact of optimistic maternal feelings on parenting conduct, mother-infant bonding, long-term psychological well being, and little one improvement has been studied, its impacts on mind improvement haven’t been explored.

In regards to the examine

The examine adopted a longitudinal potential start cohort design to analyze the connection between maternal well-being and mind improvement in 7.5-year-old kids utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This age was chosen as a result of it’s a key neurodevelopmental interval when vital cognitive processes and mind modifications happen.

Members within the examine included pregnant Asian (Malay, Indian, or Chinese language) ladies of their first trimester who had been recruited whereas they antenatal care at an ultrasound scan clinic in Singapore. For the MRI, kids had been included if they’d a gestational age of greater than 30 weeks and a start weight of greater than 2 kg to keep away from the confounding results of start problems.

The authors hypothesized that optimistic feelings throughout being pregnant could be related to vital variations in mind buildings, such because the amygdala and hippocampus in addition to useful networks, such because the default mode and visible networks. The psychological well being of the moms was assessed utilizing the Beck Despair Stock, the Edinburgh Postnatal Despair Scale, and the State-Trait Anxiousness Stock.

Moreover, the survey included questions on socioeconomic standing, relationships with family and friends, life stress, and different subjects associated to prenatal well being and well-being. This info was used to assemble an general socio-environmental adversity issue and scores for 4 threat domains – private, interpersonal, socioeconomic, and life stress.


The pattern of individuals who underwent the structural MRI included 381 kids, of whom 369 additionally underwent the useful MRI process. After controlling for the general socio-environmental adversity issue and the kid’s age throughout the MRI, researchers discovered that extra optimistic maternal feelings throughout the prenatal interval had been related to a bigger bilateral hippocampal quantity in feminine kids however not males. Nevertheless, maternal optimistic feelings weren’t seen to be related to cortical thickness or volumes of the thalamus, amygdala, lateral ventricles, or basal ganglia.

By way of useful networks, extra maternal optimistic feelings had been related to greater useful connectivity between the precise frontoparietal and visible affiliation networks, salience and thalamo-hippocampal networks, and posterior default mode and a focus networks. Notably, these outcomes had been vital after controlling for little one intercourse and age in addition to postnatal parenting stress and different threat components. These outcomes weren’t, nonetheless, related to anxiousness or depressive signs throughout being pregnant.


These findings point out that there could also be a neural foundation via which optimistic feelings throughout being pregnant are transmitted from the mom to her offspring throughout the early improvement of the mind. Of the considerably related outcomes, solely the change within the bilateral hippocampi differed between female and male kids. This analysis implies that making certain moms’ psychological well being might result in sustained advantages for offspring when it comes to neural improvement.

Whereas the examine has a number of strengths and affords novel insights, the authors acknowledged some limitations. Whereas mind improvement was assessed via neuroimaging, information on maternal temper and well-being had been collected via subjective studies and will, due to this fact, be topic to biases associated to recall and social desirability. Self-reports of optimistic feelings might not be an satisfactory proxy for psychological well-being, a posh and multifaceted problem. The examine individuals had been all Asian, resulting in a scarcity of generalizability to different populations.

Future research can construct on these findings by together with people of different races and factoring in optimistic feelings throughout different phases (similar to throughout the postnatal interval). This work provides to a rising physique of literature displaying the transgenerational nature of psychological well being outcomes and the significance of making certain that moms and youngsters aren’t simply wholesome however completely satisfied, too.

Journal reference:

  • Maternal optimistic psychological well being throughout being pregnant impacts the hippocampus and useful mind networks in kids. Qui, A., Shen, C., López-Vicente, M., Szekely, E., Chong, Y., White, T., Wazana, A. Nature Psychological Well being (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s44220-024-00202-8,
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