A Mum-To-Be’s Mental Health Decides How She Decodes Baby Expressions

A Mum-To-Be’s Mental Health Decides How She Decodes Baby Expressions

It is said that only a mother can exactly determine how her baby is feeling. Call it mother’s instinct or mother’s gut feeling, this innate ability becomes an important part of raising a child. But for this instinct to function effectively, a woman must be of sound mental health right from the time she’s pregnant.


A pilot study found that expecting women who have suffered from depression or bipolar disorder recognise how babies laugh or cry differently as compared to healthy controls. This was observed even if the women were not experiencing any symptoms of depression at the time of the test. The results might be an indication of risk for the children of these pregnant women, though more research is required to say this with certainty.


The team compared 22 expecting women with a history of depression and 7 mums-to-be with bipolar disorder who were currently well, against 28 healthy pregnant women. As controls, they also tested 18 non pregnant women.


The women were shown a series of baby pictures showing various emotions and were tested for their responses to happy and sad faces. The women had to rate how happy or distressed the babies looked. They also had to identify actual adult emotions in pictures.


The team found that compared to healthy pregnant women, 

  • The expecting mums with bipolar disorder had difficulty with recognising all facial expressions. They showed  better recognition of happy adult faces and happy baby faces
  • The pregnant women with previous depression showed a negative bias and rated infant cries more negatively.


This does not imply that these women are bad mothers, it just suggests that women with a history of mental disorders may have difficulty in recognising and responding to their infants emotional needs.


Often, depression or other mental disorders during pregnancy are often swept under the carpet as ‘hormonal.’ But little do people realise that if not treated on time, a mum-to-be can slip into chronic depression postpartum, and this can be detrimental to her health and the health of her baby. Nipping depression in the bud is imperative, so here are the signs to recognise depression in pregnancy.


Constant Moodiness

Yes, mood swings are common during pregnancy, but if the mum-to-be is crying and bad tempered most of the time, it's time to take notice.



Pregnancy is exhausting and draining, but if you find yourself  constantly tired and anxious to the point that you can’t sleep, then it might be something more.

Having suicidal thoughts

Some women have constant negative thoughts during pregnancy that lead them to thinking about ending their life. If you know a mum-to-be who refuses to socialise or talks about being fed up with life, get her help.


Does not feel positively towards the growing baby

If an expecting mum does not feel happy or excited about nurturing a baby, then she must probably be suffering from the baby blues.


Mental health during pregnancy is as important as physical health. Encourage the mum-to-be to speak up and hear her out. Get help, because only then can we have a healthy baby and mother.


Disclaimer: Information has been sourced from eurekalert


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