Research indicates massage therapy can alleviate pregnant women’s depression, while improving fetal health and the health of newborns. A new study indicates that mothers who are depressed during pregnancy give birth to children who exhibit antisocial behavior as teenagers.

In a study reported by MASSAGE Magazine in March 2009, Touch Research Institute researchers found massage eases anxiety and depression in depressed pregnant women—and their newborns seem to benefit as well. Results showed a greater decrease in fetal activity in the massage group as compared to the other groups, as well as fewer premature births. Newborns of the women who received massage also performed better on the Brazelton assessment than did newborns of mothers in the control groups.

The new study found that mothers who became depressed when pregnant were four times as likely to have children who were violent at 16. This was true for both boys and girls. The mothers’ depression, in turn, was predicted by their own aggressive and disruptive behavior as teens.

The link between depression in pregnancy and the children’s violence couldn’t be explained by other factors in the families’ environments, such as social class, ethnicity or family structure; the mothers’ age, education, marital status or IQ; or depression at other times in the children’s lives.

“Although it’s not yet clear exactly how depression in pregnancy might set infants on a pathway toward increased antisocial behavior, our findings suggest that women with a history of conduct problems who become depressed in pregnancy may be in special need of support,” according to Dale F. Hay, professor of psychology at Cardiff University in Wales.

The longitudinal study was conducted by researchers at Cardiff University, King’s College London, and the University of Bristol. Results were published in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.

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Infant Massage Helps Decrease Postnatal Depression
Massage Therapy Shown to Reduce Pain in Pregnant Women, Alleviate Prenatal Depression in Parents and Improve Couples’ Relationships