Maternal stress and depression during pregnancy may activate certain protective mechanisms in babies. Psychologists from the University of Basel together with international colleagues report that certain epigenetic adaptations in newborns suggest this conclusion. Their results have been published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
In their study, the researchers observed that increased concentrations of maternal stress hormones, depressive symptoms and general adversities during pregnancy were accompanied by epigenetic changes in the child. As a result of these changes the oxytocin receptor gene, which is important for social behavior and stress adaptations, is activated more easily. This mechanism could indicate that in these cases, the babies adapt to develop more resilience to cope with future challenges and adversities.