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Babies 'born to abused mums to have mental scars lifelong'

Posted On: July 22, 2011

London, July 20 (ANI): Children of mothers who were the victims of domestic abuse while pregnant are more likely to have lifelong mental scars, according to a new study.

German researchers believe that unnecessary stress during pregnancy can leave an imprint in the brains of unborn children, making them less able to cope with stress as they get older.

Helen Gunter of the University of Konstanz and her team asked 25 mothers whether they had suffered extreme stress caused by abuse from boyfriends or husbands while they were pregnant, and then rated their emotional level.

They then monitored the behaviour of a particular gene in their children, who were aged nine to 19.

The researchers found that the gene called the glucocorticoid receptor, involved in the brain's response to stress, was far less active in children whose mothers were victims of domestic abuse when they were pregnant.

Abuse after pregnancy did not appear to affect the way the gene responded in the brains of their children.

"It changes the way that people respond to stress and they may have a reduced ability to respond to stress," the Daily Mail quoted Gunter as saying.Past studies have shown that children who have abused parents are more prone to depression later in life," she added.

Gunter said the study looked only at the extreme stress caused by partner violence.

"This study is very specific to abuse. We did not look at the everyday stresses of working or having a family," she added.

The findings appear in the journal Translational Psychiatry. (ANI)

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