Friday, April 20, 2018

Identifying, Treating Mothers’ Depression Could Positively Impact Children’s Neurodevelopment, Study Suggests

Children whose mothers experienced depression during and after pregnancy may be slower to hit early childhood developmental milestones than children whose mothers did not experience depression, suggests a study published this week in Depression & Anxiety. The findings demonstrate the benefit that early recognition and treatment of maternal depression symptoms can have on both mothers and children.

While previous studies have suggested symptoms of depression during and after pregnancy are associated with poorer neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring, questions remain about whether such symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum as well as early childhood periods exert different, independent, or additive effects on child neurodevelopment.

For the current study, Soile Tuovinen, Ph.D., of the University of Helsinki in Finland and colleagues examined maternal depression and child development data collected from women in Finland as part of the Prediction and Prevention of Pre-eclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction (PREDO) study. A total of 2,231 mothers in the PREDO study completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale biweekly up to 14 times during pregnancy and twice up to 12 months after pregnancy. When the children were between 1.9 and 5.7 years old, the mothers completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II and filled out the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), which asks caregivers to assess children’s fine and gross motor, problem solving, communication, and personal/social skills.

The researchers found that higher depression symptoms during and after pregnancy predicted lower ASQ total scores and subscale scores in fine and gross motor, communication, problem solving, and personal/social skills in children.

“The after-pregnancy effects were additive to those during pregnancy: children whose mothers had chronically elevated depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy had the poorest developmental milestones scores,” Tuovinen and colleagues wrote. “Compared with children whose mothers never had clinically significant depressive symptoms, neurodevelopmental scores were significantly worse for children whose mothers had clinically relevant depressive symptoms either only during pregnancy, both during and up to 12 months after pregnancy, or across all three developmental stages.”

The authors concluded, “[I]ntervention in early pregnancy may benefit both mothers and children: early treatment may prevent the accumulative cascade of depressive symptoms from pregnancy onwards, which may all possibly reflect positively on child neurodevelopment.”

For related information on efforts to recognize and treat pregnant and postpartum women with depression, see the Psychiatric News article “UMass Researcher Turns Idea Into a Nationally Recognized Program.”

(Image: iStock/patrickheagney)


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