Poor nutrition in the womb and infancy can reprogram the body’s organs, setting the stage for disease decades down the road, according to the fetal origins theory. Much less is known about the impact of environmental and psychological exposures, but some potential threats include:
Depression: In a study published in Psychological Science, pregnant women were checked for depression before and after birth. Researchers found that babies tended to thrive if their mothers were healthy both before and after birth and also if they were consistently depressed. What slowed the infants’ cognitive or physical development were changing conditions — a mother who swung from depressed before birth to healthy afterward or vice versa. Long-term studies are needed to determine what having a depressed mother might mean to a child’s health later on.
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