Depression in Pregnancy Affects the Child

pregnancyA new study reported in the latest issue of JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that a child “born to a woman who suffers depression during pregnancy stands a higher likelihood of becoming a depressed adolescent ….”

The report used information from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which has collected data from nearly 9,000 women and more than 4,500 adolescent children in the United Kingdom. The study began in 1991 and will track the children until they reach age 70.

The authors of the study suggest that the way prenatal depression affects children is by biological effects during pregnancy. Whereas postnatal depression may be ‘transmitted’ primarily through differences in the home environment and social support.

Of course, this raises the question of what to do about it. One answer to that may be found in the recent post about oxytocin. Finding ways of developing secure attachments with children may go a long way towards preventing these negative effects.

Another important step is to make sure that children do not develop a sense of shame about depression, that they learn that there is help and that it is OK, even good, to ask for help if they feel overwhelmed.

Funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.