A recent research has established an important link between depression among expecting mothers and ADHD in their children.
The incidence of maternal depression during pregnancy is found to increase the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Although the relationship between maternal depression and ADHD was not explored or established earlier, recent studies have found a link between the two and show that depression in an expecting woman affects the mental and physical health of her foetus.
Maternal depression can happen due to multiple factors such as obesity, hormonal changes, family atmosphere and also the societal conditions during the time of pregnancy. These factors affect both, the physical and mental development of a child.
Dr Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant psychiatrist, explains that ADHD is a common disorder in children and suggests that early treatment may help the child overcome it.
How does maternal depression affect the child?
Expecting women suffer from depression due to hormonal changes, genetic conditions or due to certain societal problems. Maternal depression is found to affect the growth of the foetus negatively. A disturbed pregnant woman leads to negative thoughts and that affects the overall development of the child within. For this reason, pregnant mothers are advised to eat healthy and also be happy. The mental well-being of the mother has to be looked after by the family members.
How is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) caused?
The causes of ADHD are largely genetic. It is hereditary in nature. It is also caused due to toxicity but these cases are very rare and related to work or home environment. ADHD is a common pediatric neuro-development disorder affecting up to 7.2 per cent of all children. These are mostly identified at the school level.
Does it mean that maternal depression leads to some chemical changes in the brain? If so, why?
Various neuro-chemical and neuro-physiological changes in the mother’s brain may cause similar changes in the foetus’ brain, besides a genetic predisposition for ADHD. These neuro-chemical changes are seen when the depression continues throughout the pregnancy. Short episodes of depression do not affect the child significantly. But if there is a severe depression and the mother has not been attended to, then it is found to affect the child.
Is the impact on the child very strong?
It is variable depending on the geno-psychosocial make-up of the child.
Is it a lifelong problem?
Not necessarily. If recognised early, complete recovery is possible but unrecognised or untreated depression in the child can hamper his or her physical and mental well-being in the longer run.
How can maternal depression be identified?
By looking for symptoms such as sadness, extreme mood swings, loss of interest in leisure activities, disturbed sleep and appetite, negative thinking, withdrawn behaviour and suicidal thoughts.
Do people in India come forward to get treated for maternal depression?
Yes, in some cases they come on time but mostly the symptoms are either missed or ignored by the family. The taboo over depression still exists and many of them are not willing to come forward and discuss it. Women are the worst affected as they are scared to discuss their condition with their family members for the fear of being criticised or misunderstood. The society is yet to understand and accept this as a medical condition. What we get to see at the clinical level is merely the tip of the iceberg.