Mothers who are depressed or severely stressed during their pregnancy face a far greater chance of having children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, new research has found.
Although ADHD is largely inheritable, scientists say antenatal anxiety could contribute to 15 per cent of cases of the behavioural condition.
The British study of thousands of children from before birth until they were at primary school discovered a strong link between antenatal stress, “mixed-handedness” — using the left or right hand to perform different tasks — and severe childhood behavioural problems, with ADHD the most common.
The neurologists who conducted the research said their findings suggested stress hormones in the womb disrupted the normal passage of neurons between the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in the inability of one hand to become dominant, and a range of behavioral problems.
Although previous studies have discovered a link between stress and low birthweight and lower IQ, this is the first time a connection has been made between antenatal stress and ADHD. The research was presented at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society by Alina Rodriguez from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.
Read more in The Australian