Losing a loved one during pregnancy may affect child’s mental health, finds study

Losing a loved one during pregnancy may affect child’s mental health, finds study

The grief related to the death of a loved one often remains at the back of one’s mind for a long time, and it can go on to affect one’s mental health. But for expectant mothers, the high stress level due to the death of a close relative may have an effect on the next generation, according to researchers from the Stanford University who tried to examine the impact of the loss on the mental health of a child in later stages of life.

The researchers for their study, titled “Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation,” evaluated the emotional condition of Swedish infants born from 1973 to 2011. They chose respondents whose mothers had been grieving for a lost relative, viz., sibling, parents, maternal grandparents, her husband or the child’s elder sibling. The study published online in the American Economic Review in April 2018 evaluated the health condition of the respondent children till they reached adulthood and contrasted it with kids who had lost their mothers after they were born. For detailed analysis, the researchers took into consideration the effect of death on the fetus, including the extent to which it had been exposed to stress suffered by the mother due to sudden loss or worsening of family resources.

Based on an in-depth study of the findings, the authors of the study wrote, “That prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood.” The researchers also noted that the death of a dear one up to three generations apart during the gestation phase can also result in adverse effects. “Our study offers complementary evidence linking early-life circumstance to adult mental health, but breaks new ground by focusing on stress, which may be more pertinent than malnutrition in modern developed countries such as the United States and Sweden, and by tracing health outcomes throughout the time period between the fetal shock and adulthood,” said the researchers.

Stress during pregnancy can have a plethora of side effects. Families struggling because of poor financial health are likely to be more affected due to the death of a loved one compared to those hailing from affluent background. The researchers have requested the government to design and execute policies to combat stress levels during pregnancy.

Seeking treatment for mental illness

The findings of the research highlighted that building up stress levels due to loss of a loved one was one of the main causes affecting emotional health, which, if not treated timely, can take the shape of grievous mental conditions like anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. In the U.S., millions, including children and adolescents, suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 50.6 percent American children aged 8-15 years had accessed mental health services in the previous year. The need of the hour is to take measures to provide sufficient mental health treatment facilities to expectant mothers who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Fortunately, most of the mental disorders are treatable with timely medical intervention. If you or a loved one is grappling with a mental problem, seek assistance from the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline that provides credible information about mental health facilities in the country. If you want to check into a world class mental health rehab center, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat with our online counselor for detailed information. Remember that mental problems can have life-threatening implications, if left untreated.