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Negative effects of maternal depression
Children of mothers with long-term depression are at higher risk of behavioral problems and poorer general development. The longer the affected mother suffers from depression, the worse the consequences for the child.
A recent study by the University of Queensland found that maternal depression had a negative impact on the behavior and development of their children. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology".
Almost 900 mothers took part in the study
892 mothers with depression and 978 children were examined for the study. The researchers were particularly interested in the effects on the development and behavior of the children affected. The evaluated data came from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.
Depression duration had a strong impact on offspring
The effects of maternal depression before, during and after pregnancy were examined and compared. The research group found that the duration of the depression had a greater influence than the time when the depression first appeared.
The study found that one in five women experienced depression once in their life. Eleven percent of them experienced recurrent depression. It became clear that the longer a mother suffered from maternal depression, the worse the consequences for the child.
Reducing depressive symptoms helps mother and child
Many mothers fear that if they suffered from depression during pregnancy, it is already too late to take countermeasures. However, the negative effects on the children can still be influenced later. A reduction in depressive symptoms is better for mothers and their children at any stage, the researchers emphasize. However, the earlier depression is recognized and treated in mothers, the better the negative effects can be reduced or even prevented, the researchers report.
The research group therefore suggests starting screening for depression when couples start planning pregnancy. Such a systematic test procedure should then be continued during the perinatal phase and early childhood, according to the researchers.
Depressed women should seek help immediately
Maternal depression is a major challenge for women, their families and the community. It is important to take better care of women in key phases of maternal life. If women suffer from depression, they should see their family doctor for advice and treatment. Because persistent, untreated depression of mothers not only affects their lives, but increases the risk of negative effects on the behavior and development of children. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Katrina M. Moss, Annette J. Dobson, Gita D. Mishra: Testing the role of the timing and chronicity of maternal depressive symptoms in the associations with child behavior and development, in Journal of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology (published Jun 14, 2020), Journal of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology