The Influence of Maternal Emotions During Pregnancy on Fetal and Neonatal Behavior
The following problems are the leading questions of our research project: (1) Can the influence of maternal emotions upon fetal behavior be established in the prenatal period, using real-time ultrasound echography and cardiography? (2) Is the prenatal influence, established in the prenatal period, reflected in the neonatal behavior? And can we find significant correlations between maternal emotions during pregnancy on the one hand and neonatal and infant behavior-e.g. neonatal neurological state and behavioral states organization, feeding behavior, mother-infant-interaction, infant temperament-on the other hand?
Results are as follows: (1) A longitudinal study of 30 women out of a larger group of 70 nulliparous women revealed that maternal state anxiety during echographic recording (120') was significantly correlated with fetal behavior. Moreover it was found that fetal behavior was sensitive to the influence of maternal chronic anxiety (trait anxiety) during pregnancy. (2) Results on the subgroup of 30 women and their babies seem to suggest a certain degree of continuity between fetal and neonatal movement patterns and further indicate that the prenatal influence is reflected in neonatal behavior. Analysis of the follow-up data (n = 70) revealed other effects of maternal emotions (studied during each pregnancy trimester and at the 1st, the 10th and the 28th week after birth) on infant behavior (observed at the 1st, the 10th and the 28th week).
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B.R.H. Van den Bergh, Ph.D.
B.R.H. Van den Bergh has been located at the Center for Developmental Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, and has been a research Assistant at the National fund for Scientific Research (Belgium). Address correspondence to Orshagenstraat 15, 3100 Heist-op-den-berg, Belgium. Dr. Van den Bergh is now a Clinical psychologist in a children's rehabilitation center.