Prenatal anxiety and depression evident in infant brain scans, but strong social supports identified as protective

A new preprint paper examines the pandemic’s effects on pregnant people and their infants. Canadian researchers surveyed 8,600 pregnant individuals during the
pandemic, finding 47 percent reported symptoms of anxiety and 33 percent reported symptoms of clinical depression, between two and three times population
measures of pre-pandemic levels. Symptoms were lower among pregnant people with greater quantity or quality perceived social support. Researchers then revisited
a subset of those parents about three months postpartum and imaged their infants’ brains via MRI (75 participants resulting in 45 usable images). The authors identified
reduced functional connectivity in the infants whose parents reported higher anxiety and depressive symptoms, but only among those with low social support. Among
parents with symptoms and high social support, no effects on infant brain development were identified. Findings suggest that the pandemic’s effect may be
long term, but that social support systems could be a protective factor for both pregnant individuals and their infants.