Low Birth-Weight Babies At Risk of Adult Depression
A UK study has highlighted the risks of giving birth to
full-term, low birth weight babies in a comprehensive study of over
5000 British adults. Researchers found a direct link between low birth
weight and the incidence of depression in these babies as they reached
The results of this fascinating study emphasize the importance of maternal
prenatal health and the subsequent emotional wellbeing of their babies.
Researchers at the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine studied over 5000 adults aged from 45 to 51 who
had previously participated in a child development study in the late
What the researchers found was startling. Where birth weight for a full-term
baby was low (i.e. under 5.5lbs or 2.5 kg), the individual had a 50%
higher chance than their normal birth weight peers to experience emotional
problems in later life, most notably depression.
Using statistical analysis, researchers were able to adjust for life
factors such as socio-economic issues, IQ, and childhood difficulties,
yet still were able to conclude that small babies are more likely to
experience depression as adults. These finding lead scientists to speculate
that restricted growth in the uterus may have detrimental effects on
the subsequent emotional wellbeing of these babies.
The average full term baby weighs approximately 7.5 lbs (3.4 kgs) and
almost 25% of this weight is accounted for by the head. At birth, a
baby’s head is already 25% of its full adult size. Low birth weight
babies are often placed in incubators which may add to the overall stress
load of a small baby. Such babies are also more likely to suffer from
other conditions such as diabetes, learning difficulties, and a failure
The study adds mood disorders to what appears to be a growing list of
medical problems to which low birth weight babies seem more susceptible.
The reasons for depression are multifactorial and hence it is difficult
for scientists to accurately pinpoint the precipitating factors involved.
However, low birth weight babies can be the result of genetic factors
as well as lifestyle issues such as smoking, poor nutrition, poor maternal
health, and alcohol abuse.
While we cannot control our genetic make-up, we can certainly take steps
to ensure that our unborn child receives adequate nutrition during those
critical first nine months in the uterus. This new finding linking low
birth weight to depression in adulthood is yet one more good reason
to eat healthy during pregnancy.
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