Among factors which may be adverse in early infant development the role of maternal stress in pregnancy is now recognized. Maternal states of depression and anxiety in pregnancy are related to the increased risk of obstetrical complications, premature birth, eclampsia and low birth weight. Moreover animal experimentation and human observational studies have pointed out a relationship between maternal stress and the impairment of the foetal nervous system due to the effects of the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary axis and the sympathoadrenal dysregulation. These findings support the hypothesis that the biochemical and metabolic modifications of uterine environment due to the correlates of maternal stress interfere with foetal development with long lasting consequences on the health of the individual also influencing the characteristics of the newborn temperament and the quality of early adjustment between mother and child. Among the consequences of foetal exposition to maternal stress there is excessive and inconsolable crying, fussiness and sleep disturbances in newborns, difficult temperament and delays in cognitive and motor development in toddlers while recent literature highlights the increased risk of depression in adolescents. The present study focuses on prevalence and correlates of depression symptoms in pregnancy concerning the characteristcs of the temperament of children in their first months of life.
Keywords: Pregnancy, depression, anxiety, temperament, child development
Anna Maria Della Vedova, Benedetta Ducceschi, Bruno Mario Cesana, Nicoletta Pelizzari, Antonio Imbasciati, Maternal emotional well-being during pregnancy and the temperament of the infant in the early months of life in "CHILD DEVELOPMENT & DISABILITIES - SAGGI" 3/2009, pp. 45-71, DOI:10.3280/CDD2009-003003