According to a recently published study, women who experience stress, worry or panic attacks before becoming pregnant are more than twice as likely to report that their child cried ‘excessively’.
It is not known why this link exists, but researchers said mothers suffering from anxiety may have a more ‘intrusive’ parenting style that could cause babies to cry more.
Experts also suggest a baby’s excessive crying may be due to the mother’s production of stress hormones during pregnancy, which may cross the placenta and affect the development of a child’s brain.
The study, published in the journal Archives Of Disease In Childhood, looked at nearly 300 women who were in the early stages of pregnancy.
They were asked about their history of anxiety and depression, and were interviewed during their pregnancy and until their child was 16 months old.
Ten per cent of the women reported excessive crying following the birth. Further analysis found that babies born to women with an anxiety disorder were significantly more likely to cry for longer periods.
Child health specialist Dr Harriet Hiscock, from the University of Melbourne, warned that the role of the father also needed to be examined and cautioned against adding to ‘a mother’s day of worry by blaming her for her infant’s crying’..
GP Dr Clare Bailey, a parenting specialist, commenting on the study said:
‘Mothers can easily get into a traumatic negative cycle when worrying about a newborn child. The more they worry, the less they sleep and calm themselves down and the more they worry.
‘Anxiety can make them hypervigilant, distressed by crying and even rejected by their child.
‘It intuitively sounds likely that a calm mother feeling relaxed, comfortable and confident will be more likely to help a child regulate its crying, while an anxious mother may be less likely to help a baby to self-settle. Babies can pick up emotional cues very early on.’