Friday, July 27, 2018

Maternal Prenatal Depression, Anxiety Affects Child Development, Particularly in Poorer Families

Children of mothers who experienced depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to have behavioral difficulties throughout childhood, according to a meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The association between prenatal depression and the children’s behavioral problems was found to be higher in economically disadvantaged families.

“Preventive interventions in pregnancy may be particularly appropriate for mothers presenting with depression and/or those burdened by demographic risk,” wrote Sheri Madigan, Ph.D., of the University of Calgary and colleagues.

Madigan and colleagues searched the English-language literature for studies in which maternal depression and/or anxiety was measured during pregnancy and offspring outcomes were collected prior to the age of 18 years. For the purposes of the analysis, child socio-emotional development was defined to include social and emotional competence (such as understanding and selecting appropriate social or emotional responses), temperament (including fussiness or negative affectivity), behavioral problems, and crying or colic. The researchers analyzed 73 studies.

They found that for mothers experiencing prenatal depression and anxiety, the odds of having children with behavioral difficulties were almost 1.5 to 2 times greater than those not experiencing prenatal depression or anxiety. Additional analysis revealed that children born to mothers with prenatal depression had a higher risk of behavioral problems than those born to mothers with prenatal anxiety (odds ratio 1.79 and 1.50, respectively).

“This research adds support to the increasing body of literature suggesting that prenatal depression and anxiety are potential fetal programming factors, affecting biological, cognitive, and behavioural development in offspring,” the authors wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Maternal Mental Health: Moving Mental Health Care Upstream” and the American Journal of Psychiatry article “Fetal Origins of Mental Health: The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Hypothesis.”

(Image: iStock/tatyana_tomsickova)


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