A new study has found that a mother who suffers from depression during pregnancy may expect to see some language delays in her baby. The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested babies at ages 6 months and 10 months, each time measuring the babies' abilities to distinguish between similar sounds in different language, and engage with people who are speaking different languages when the speakers' voices are muted.
In typically developing children, 6-month-olds can easily make distinctions between two languages, and 10-month-olds cannot, revealing a critical window for language development in young brains. The study, however, found that babies whose mothers were depressed but took no medication during pregnancy experienced a delay; they "passed the test" at 10 months, but failed it at 6 months. Babies whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy failed the test at both ages.
"What's going on here? Researchers aren't sure, and they don't know if it's good or bad. One explanation for delay in the depressed-but-not-medicated group is that those kids weren't being exposed to as much engaging speech because their mothers were depressed.
Alternatively, the brain chemicals from the mother associated with depression could have something to do with it. And the antidepressants could be impacting the child's brain development in the group whose mothers took these medications.
Are there long-lasting consequences of delays, or advancements, in this critical period of language sensitivity? No one knows. More research needs to be done in order to determine the implications of the findings of this study."
Image: Mom and baby, via Shutterstock