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Hyperanxious Pregnant Women May Have Hyperactive Kids

More research is needed to confirm the finding

Children of mothers who are anxious in pregnancy and in the first few years of the child’s life are twice as likely to have hyperactivity symptoms by age 16, according to researchers with the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). They presented their work for the first time at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress in September.

The researchers tracked physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, and insomnia in 8,727 mothers between early pregnancy and the child’s fifth year. They classified the women as having low, medium, or high anxiety. All the women showed increased anxiety during pregnancy, but about 28% showed medium or high anxiety.

The researchers also tested how children performed in attention tests when they reached 8 years old. They found no difference in attention, no matter how anxious the mothers had rated. But when the researchers tested 3,199 children at age 16, they found a significant difference in hyperactivity symptoms.

Of those children, 224 showed signs and symptoms of hyperactivity: 11% of those with “high anxiety” mothers and 11% with “moderate anxiety” mothers showed symptoms of hyperactivity, compared with 5% of those with “low anxiety” mothers. 

“We can’t one hundred percent say that anxiety symptoms in pregnancy and early life cause later hyperactivity; other genetic, biological or environmental effects may be at play,” the lead investigator notes. “This work shows that maternal anxiety is one factor which is linked to ADHD, but we need some more research to confirm.”

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