As it turns out, the month your baby is born may have an impact on the health issues they face later on in life. At least according to a new study, that is.
New research, which looked at the link between seasonality and the risk of kids developing anxiety and depression, has found that babies born in the fall and winter are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems later in life.
The ground-breaking study was published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal. It looked at over 300 Caucasian women all living in South Wales. The mothers not only had to provide saliva samples, but they also filled out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) as well as the State-Trait anxiety Inventory in order to get a better understanding of their experience with mental health.
They found that different environmental factors in the fall and winter months increase the offspring’s chances for health problems, particularly those related to mental well-being. For instance, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression that particularly affects people in the winter and can thus have consequences for babies still in gestation.
This is because mothers who deliver their children in these months often have higher levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. The amount of cortisol found in a person’s saliva can increase due to factors such as alcoholism, pregnancy, and depression. Other environmental and health conditions can also affect it. Thus, pregnant mothers struggling with depression or other mental health problems often have high rates of cortisol.
“Adverse environmental exposures during critical periods of intrauterine development lead to changes in the fetus that persist after birth impacting the individual’s genetically determined health trajectory,” the study explained, adding that such health problems can include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even psychiatric disorders.
“Our data shows that autumn and winter babies are exposed to particularly high levels [of cortisol] just before they are born,” the researchers added. In particular, they specified that women who give birth in the fall or winter more had 20 percent more salivary cortisol than their pregnant counterparts who delivered in the spring and summer.
“As high levels of cortisol in pregnant women have previously been associated with a higher risk of children developing mental health disorders, the new findings could explain why these disorders are more common in people born during the winter months,” the study concluded.