Hyperactivity linked to anxiety in pregnancy

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Women who worry a lot during pregnancy are at twice the risk of having a hyperactive child, a study has shown.

One reason may be that anxiety reduces the blood flow to the womb and therefore to the baby, cutting the flow of oxygen and nutrients it receives. But the researchers, led by Vivette Glover, a professor of perinatal psychobiology at Imperial College, London, say it could also be that the women produce more of the stress hormone cortisol which crosses the placenta and affects their unborn babies.

The study, due to be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved 7,000 pregnant women in Avon who were expecting their babies between April 1991 and December 1992. They were given questionnaires designed to measure their anxiety at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. Those who scored in the top 15 per cent were dubbed anxious.

Their children were assessed for emotional and behavioural problems just before their fourth birthday. The results showed that women who were most anxious in the last three months of pregnancy had children with more behavioural problems such as hyperactivity and inattention.