Health: Anxious mums can pass on their stress to their babies, scientists warn

Anxious mums can pass on their stress to their babies — leaving them with an 'emotional imprint' that can scar them for life, scientists warn Depression and changeable moods impact 10–20% of expecting and new mums This can negatively impact the mother's role in their child's early development German experts studied anxious or depressed mothers' kids using a stress test  They found the babies of these mums had higher heart rates when stressed out

By Ian Randall For Mailonline

Published: 12:22 BST, 14 September 2020 | Updated: 12:56 BST, 14 September 2020

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Babies can be scarred for life by receiving an 'emotional imprint' of stress passed from anxious or depressed mothers, a study has found.

Using a standardised stress test, researchers from Germany found that the young children of stressed mums show significantly increased heart rate when upset.

Mother–infant interactions play a significant role in a child's development — with anxious or depressed mothers less able to regulate an infant's negative moods.

According to experts, 10–20 per cent of women experience such mood disorders as mild depression, irritability and changing moods during and after pregnancy.

Babies can be scarred for life by receiving an 'emotional imprint' of stress passed from anxious or depressed mothers, a study has found (stock image)

Babies can be scarred for life by receiving an 'emotional imprint' of stress passed from anxious or depressed mothers, a study has found (stock image)

'To our knowledge this is one of the first times this physical effect has been seen in three-months old infants,' said paper author Fabio Blanco-Dormond of the University of Heidelberg.

'This may feed into other physiological stress systems leading to imprinted psychological problems,' he added.

In their study, Mr Blanco-Dormond and colleagues studied 50 pairs of mothers and their children — 20 in which the mothers exhibited signs of anxiety of depression around the time they gave birth, and 30 pairs in which the mums did not.

Each mother and child was given the so-called 'still face' test, which was devised in the seventies to demonstrate the impact of emotionally distant parents on babies.

The test involves mothers first playfully interacting with their children, then spending time maintaining eye contact but acting blankly towards their babies before finally resuming normal interactions. In the current study, each

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