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Recommended reading Risk and resilience prenatal Stages: Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great change — not just physically, but also emotionally. Anything that’s bad for the mum’s health negatively affects the wellbeing of the unborn baby, too.

Growing up in New Zealand

New Zealand's longitudinal study Growing up in New Zealand tracks the development, and what shapes it, of approximately 7000 New Zealand children.

Report 1 of the study, Before we are born (November 2010), suggests that families are given more information now than in the past about things that harm pregnant mums and their unborn babies. However, not all parents heed the guidelines — especially regarding what they eat and drink.

In terms of emotional health, Growing up in New Zealand has found that:

One in eight New Zealand women suffer from depression symptoms while pregnant, with Pacific and Asian women twice as likely to be affected. The risk is three times higher for women who were diagnosed with anxiety before and during pregnancy, regardless of their ethnicity. Stress was also found to be an important factor: The more stressed women feel during pregnancy the more likely they are to experience depression symptoms.

Prenatal depression

Women experiencing prenatal depression are more likely to:

  • have had an unplanned pregnancy
  • be in a relationship but not living with their partner
  • be living in an unstable family situation
  • feel less integrated into their neighbourhood
  • smoke, and eat poorly — resulting in weight loss or gain that affects baby’s development
  • not make use of maternity services or breastfeed
  • also experience postnatal depression.

Building resilience

The direct opposite of the risk factors above are known to build resilience. The mum will be more resilient if she has:

  • emotional, family and social support
  • a supportive relationship with her partner
  • a strong, caring family environment
  • positive family values and traditions
  • practical support.

The unborn baby will be more resilient if their parents:

  • have realistic and accurate expectations about a newborn baby
  • have a warm and loving bond with baby
  • are sensitive, nurturing and protective of baby.


Further information

Growing up in New Zealand — Report 1 of the study (November 2010)

Website of the study tracking the development of approximately 7000 New Zealand children from before birth until they are young adults. The study provides unique information about what shapes children’s early development and how to give every New Zealand child the best start in life.

Publications on New Zealand research covering topics such as the effects of smoking, alcohol and drug misuse on the unborn child.

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