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Stress During Pregnancy Increases Risk Of Children With Personality Disorders

Women who experience stress in pregnancy could be more likely to have children with personality disorders, research suggests.

New research has claimed stress could affect the development of the brain while a child is in utero.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry is the first of its kind to look at the link between stress and personality disorders.

A personality disorder is characterised by unstable moods, behaviour and relationships.

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Researchers found that children were three times more likely to develop a personality disorder by the age of 30 if their mothers experience any level of stress during pregnancy.

That number rose to nearly 10 times more likely if the mother suffered "severe" stress during pregnancy.

Researchers asked 3,626 women from Helsinki, Finland, who were pregnant between 1975 and 1976 what their levels of stress were each month.

When the children turned 30, researchers recorded diagnoses of personality disorders, of which their were 40 in total. All cases of diagnoses were severe cases that have involved hospital admissions.

Other factors, such as if the mother smoked during pregnancy, suffered depression or had a diagnoses of mental illness, were also taken into account, but the correlation between stress and pregnancy was not affected by these.

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Mental health support is key for expectant mothers, Ross Brannigan, lead author from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said.

"This study highlights the importance of providing mental health and stress support to both pregnant women and families during the antenatal and postnatal period," he said.

It was also noted in the study other factors could play a role in a person developing a personality disorder.

Poor relationships with parents, or suffering trauma such as losing a parent or sexual abuse, were noted as possible causes of personality disorders.

With AAP.