Pregnant, Anxious Moms Don’t Pass Their Anxiety Onto Their Unborn Children

Written by Jim Folk
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Written by Jim Folk
Written by Jim Folk
Last updated June 24, 2021
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Even just a few years ago, it was believed anxious moms could pass their anxiety onto their unborn babies. Many believed this was one way anxiety ran in families.

Since anxiety is caused by learned behavior and not by a biological problem with the brain, a chemical imbalance in the brain, or a genetic predisposition, we disagreed with that opinion.

However, it’s well known that anxiety travels in families because unhealthy behaviors are passed from parent to child.

Recent research by King’s College of London has confirmed both: 

  • Anxious moms while pregnant don’t pass their anxiety onto their unborn babies, and 
  • Anxious behaviors are passed from parents to children postnatal.

According to our research and experience, the environment we grow up in is the primary way issues with anxiety develop.

These facts are good news because:

  • Pregnant, anxious moms don’t have to be concerned about passing their anxiety onto their unborn children.
  • Parents dealing with their anxiety issues and learning healthy parenting styles can prevent their children from developing issues with anxiety.
  • Those who currently struggle with anxiety issues can eliminate that struggle with behavioral modification.

No one needs to struggle with anxiety issues. They are reversible with the right information, professional help, and effort.

You can read King’s College research below:

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Anxiety During Pregnancy Does Not Pass From Mother To Baby

KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

Mothers who experience anxiety during pregnancy do not pass on similar emotional problems to their children, according to a review of existing research by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience (IoPPN).

The research, which appeared online first prior to final publication in the July 1, 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has however suggested that exposure to an anxious parent after birth might have an impact, even after accounting for the role of genetics.

Researchers know that anxiety runs in families; children of anxious parents are at higher risk for developing similar problems themselves. However, it is unclear whether parents directly influence the development of emotional problems ‘environmentally’ as their child grows up (or vice versa), or whether anxious parents pass on a genetic predisposition for anxiety, or both.

The researchers reviewed eight existing studies from Europe and the US published between 2010 and 2019 on the association between parental anxiety during pregnancy and emotional problems in their children, with a particular focus on studies which accounted for the role of genetics in how anxiety is passed on.

Data from three studies (which assessed children between the ages of 0.5 to 10 years old) showed that exposure to maternal anxiety during pregnancy was not associated with emotional problems in children.

Meanwhile, six studies (which assessed a broader age range of children between 0.75 to 22 years old) on postnatal anxiety found a modest association between postnatal anxiety and later emotional problems in children.

Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh, lead author from King’s IoPPN said: “Our findings will be reassuring for pregnant mothers who are worried that anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could be transferred on to their children.

“While we did find some evidence that postnatal exposure to parent anxiety may cause later emotional problems in children, it isn’t possible to tell whether this impact is significant and long-lasting. Once children are born, how they become anxious is far too complex for us to make broad assumptions. We would encourage clinicians to take a holistic view, which considers the influence of genetically inherited traits alongside the shared family environment.”

Dr Ahmadzadeh added: “Our results also highlight a striking need for new research. Most of the evidence we looked at focused on mother-child relationships, whereas future research should consider the role of fathers, as well as siblings and extended family members.”

“It is important to understand the genetic and environmental contribution of these factors, in order to develop better ways of preventing or managing emotional problems in children.”


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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including Pregnant, Anxious Moms Don’t Pass Their Anxiety Onto Their Unborn Children.

References

1. "Anxiety during pregnancy does not pass from mother to baby, finds new King's study." King's College London, 22 June 2021,