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Mother’s postnatal depression ups risk of behavioral issues in offspring, finds study

03-13 | Rachael

Mother’s postnatal depression ups risk of behavioral issues in offspring, finds study

Pregnancy is usually the happiest phase in a woman’s life, but it could also lead to one of the toughest periods. While it affects mental and physical condition of the woman, even the man might have to deal with its negative impact.

A woman could be affected at all the stages of pregnancy, that is before, during and after. During this time, many women experience postnatal depression or postpartum depression (PND). PND is a mood disorder that affects a woman after childbirth, often leading to symptoms such as extreme sadness, irritability, feeling low, anxiety and unexplained episodes of crying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects approximately one in nine women.

A recent research in the United Kingdom, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in January 2018, found that children of mothers dealing with persistent and severe maternal PND, were at a greater risk of developing adverse effects, including behavioral issues. The risk for behavioral issues was found to be higher at the age of 3.5 years in these children, as compared to mothers with less severe or persistent depression.

They were also reported to score lower grades in mathematics at the age of 16 and were at a higher risk of developing depression at the age of 18. PND was found to be associated with the other developmental issues, like delayed cognitive and language skills, insecure or disorganized attachment, to name a few.

Data on pregnant women and children analyzed

To conduct the study, a sample data of pregnant women with an expected delivery date between April 1, 1991 and December 31, 1992 from a specific area in England was taken for the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The offspring taken as part of the sample included 4,227 (51 percent) males, and 4,060 (49 percent) females.

The researchers analyzed data on maternal depression during the postnatal year and at six additional time points, until 11 years after childbirth. Along with this, the data was also analyzed for child behavioral patterns, for problems that affected them at the age of 3.5 years, their mathematics grades at age 16 and depression at the age of 18 years.

Study findings

Following are some of the findings shared by researchers:

  • The average Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score (EPDS) that was used to measure severity of maternal depression remained high among women with persistent, severe PND. Little improvement was reported in them for up to 11 years after childbirth.
  • The EPDS score showed only a marginal change after the postnatal year.
  • As compared to the reference group, the EPDS score was found to be higher for up to 11 years after childbirth.
  • The average depression scores were found to be higher among women whose PND continued for 2-8 months after childbirth.
  • Among women whose depression persisted for only two months after childbirth, the risk of behavioral issues among children at 3.5 years was still found to be high.

Treatment can help

It is clear from these findings that depression can affect the woman as well her offspring later in their lives. Therefore, women must opt for regular screening by an expert during and after their pregnancy, for at least a year, to eliminate any hidden risk of developing depression later in life.

If a woman is found affected by depression, she should be offered immediate help. If a loved one is hit by depression, the Depression Treatment Helpline of Colorado can help. Call our 24/7 depression helpline (866) 427-5668 or chat online with one of our experts to find out the best depression treatment in Colorado. Our experts can guide you to the reputed rehabilitation centers in Colorado.

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