Increased stress on fathers leads to brain development changes in offspring

New research in mice has found that a father’s stress affects the brain development of his offspring. This stress changes the father’s sperm, which can then alter the brain development of the child. This new research provides a much better understanding of the key role that fathers play in the brain development of offspring.

Scientists have known that a mother’s environment during pregnancy, including factors such as poor diet, stress or infection, can cause damage negatively impact her offspring. This may be due in part to how this environment affects the expression of certain genes — known as epigenetics.

But the researchers, led by neuroscientist Tracy Bale at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, now show that a father’s stress can also affect offspring development, by altering important aspects of his sperm.

Full story at Science Daily

Depression lowers women’s chances of pregnancy, study finds

Women with severe depressive symptoms have a decreased chance of becoming pregnant, while the use of psychotropic medications does not appear to harm fertility, a study by researchers from the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine shows.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found a 38 percent decrease in the average probability of conception in a given menstrual cycle among women who reported severe depressive symptoms, compared to those with no or low symptoms. The results were similar, regardless of whether the women were on psychotropic medications.

Despite associations in prior studies between infertility and the use of antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers among already infertile women, “current use of psychotropic medications did not appear to harm the probability of conception,” said lead author Yael Nillni, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and a researcher with the National Center for PTSD, Women’s Health Sciences Division of the VA Boston Healthcare System. “Our findings suggest that moderate to severe depressive symptoms, regardless of current psychotropic medication treatment, may delay conception.”

Full story of depression and women’s pregnancy chances at Science Daily

Mental health risk for new dads

Researchers have found anxiety around the arrival of a new baby is just as common as postnatal depression, and the risks for men are nearly as high as for women.

Mental health researcher Dr Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found anxiety before and after a child arrives is just as prevalent as depression, affecting around one in ten men, around half the rate for women.

“Men can feel left out of the process, because pregnancy and childbirth are so integrally linked to the mother,” said Dr Leach, from The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Ageing, Health and Wellbeing.

“It can compound the problem. They don’t seek help, because they think ‘it’s not so much about me’.”

Full story on mental health risk for new dads at Science Daily

Depression, weight gain in pregnancy linked to sitting down

A link between depression in pregnancy and long periods of sitting down has been identified by researchers from the University of Warwick.

The study found those suffering from symptoms of depression during pregnancy are more likely to sit down for long periods of time in the second trimester. The academics also found this puts them at risk of greater weight gain and contracting gestational diabetes.

The study was led by Dr Nithya Sukumar, Clinical Research Fellow, Metabolic & Vascular Health, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick has been presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Edinburgh.

Full story of depression and weight gain in pregnancy at Science Daily

Stress during pregnancy related to children’s later movement, coordination

Stress experienced by mothers during pregnancy is related to their children’s behavior, as well as mental and cognitive outcomes in middle childhood and into adolescence, but few studies have looked at the relationship between maternal pregnancy stress and children’s motor development. Now a new longitudinal study has found that mothers who experienced more stressful events during their pregnancies had children who scored lower on a test of movement competence.

The study, by researchers at the University of Notre Dame Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute, appears in the journal Child Development.

To test the relationship between maternal stress and children’s motor development, researchers followed 2,900 primarily Caucasian Australian mothers. When the women were 18 weeks pregnant, they were asked to complete a questionnaire about stressful events during their pregnancies. These events included financial hardship, losing a close relative or friend, separation or divorce, marital problems, problems with the pregnancy, losing a job, and moving residences. The moms completed the same questionnaire when they were 34 weeks pregnant.

Full story of pregnancy stress and children’s coordination at Science Daily

Helping pregnant moms with depression doesn’t help kids, study shows

A long-term study of mother-child pairs in Pakistan has found that the children turn out pretty much the same, whether or not their mothers received treatment for depression during pregnancy.

An earlier study of the same population found that the mothers themselves benefited from the treatment, with less depression, and demonstrating related healthy behaviors with their newborns, such as breastfeeding. But those improvements were short-lived.

The “Thinking Healthy Programme” is a successful depression intervention evaluated through a randomized trial among a group of pregnant women seven years ago. A reference group of pregnant women who did not suffer from depression were added in the current study.

Full story of pregnant moms and depression at Science Daily

Text messages a good way to support mothers with postpartum depression

A Saint Louis University research paper published online March 16 in JMIR Mental Health explores the feasibility of helping low-income mothers through postpartum depression using text messages.

Corresponding author Matthew A. Broom, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and SLUCare physician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, formed the Happy Mothers, Healthy Families program in 2013 with a three-year, $316,140 grant from the Maternal Child and Family Health Coalition (MCHFC).

Other authors include Amy S. Ladley, Ph.D. and Elizabeth A. Rhyne, R.N. CPNP, of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and the Saint Louis University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, and Donna R. Halloran, M.D., MSPH, associate professor of pediatrics at SLU and a SLUCare physician at Cardinal Glennon.

Full story of texting and supporting mothers with postpartum depression at Science Daily

Prenatal exposure to common air pollution linked to cognitive, behavioral impairment

Researchers at the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and colleagues at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health have found a powerful relationship between prenatal PAH exposure and disturbances in parts of the brain that support information processing and behavioral control. Their study of 40 children, followed from before birth until 7 to 9 years of age as part of the Center’s large community-based cohort, will be published online by JAMA Psychiatry on March 25.

Neurotoxic PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are ubiquitous in the environment, in the home and in the workplace. Emissions from motor vehicles, oil and coal burning for home heating or power generation, wildfires and agricultural burning, hazardous waste sites, tobacco smoke and charred foods are all sources of exposure. PAH readily crosses the placenta and affects an unborn child’s brain; earlier animal studies showed that prenatal exposure impaired the development of behavior, learning and memory.

Full story of prenatal exposure to air pollution at Science Daily

Women who experience ‘postpartum’ depression before giving birth may face greater risk

When it comes to postpartum depression, one size does not fit all, according to a new study led by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers.

Instead, women with postpartum depression may experience any of three distinct subtypes of clinical presentation, and each of these has important implications for their prognosis and the tailoring of treatments, the researchers found.

“Clinicians should be aware of the diverse presentation of women with postpartum depression,” said Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders and corresponding collaborator of the study, which was published in the January 2015 issue of The Lancet Psychiatry.

Full story of postpartum before birth at Science Daily