Pregnant Women Recognise Baby Expressions Differently depending on their Mental Health History

Posted on June 15, 2019

Lead researcher, Dr Anne Bjertrup says that through this study, they have found that pregnant women with depression or bipolar disorder processes infants’ facial and vocal signals of emotion differently. This is even when they are not currently experiencing a depressive or maniac episode. These differences between one’s mental health histories – may impair one’s ability to recognise, interpret and respond appropriately to their future infants’ emotional signals.

Researchers further found that, compared to healthy pregnant women – pregnant women with bipolar disorder had difficulty recognising all facial expressions and showed a ‘positive face processing bias’. This suggests that they are better able to recognise happy adult faces and more positive ratings of happy infant faces. This is in contrast with pregnant women who had a mental history of depression. They have a negative bias in the recognition of adult facial expressions and rated infant cries more negatively.

While genes play an important role in one’s mental health history, it is also likely that the quality of the early interaction with the mother is important. This different cognitive response to emotional infant signals in pregnant women with a history of mania and/or depression may make it more difficult for them to relate to their child and could thus confer an early environmental risk for the child. The results from the study simple means that because of their health history, they may experience difficulties interpreting and responding appropriately to their infants’ emotional needs.

This is the first research that shows potential link in both depression and bipolar disorder. Hence, further studies are required to design and test early screening and intervention programs that would be able to train mothers to help better interpret the signals from their children. More importantly, evidence is necessary to see the potential effects on children. This is to see if this difference does indeed make a difference to the mother-infant interaction, which may have an impact on the child’s psychological development. This research may help us identify targets for pharmacological and psychological treatments, which in turn may help people with depression and bipolar disorder.

Category(s):Bipolar, Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Child Development, Depression

Source material from Science Daily

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