Children born to mothers who were depressed for a long time are at higher risk of behavioral problems and poor development warned a new study.

It has always been debated if maternal depressive symptoms (MDS) in a mother affected the child. The experts at the University of Queensland sought to analyze the link between maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior and development.

The Study:

The researchers used the data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to analyze the depression levels in 892 mothers and the development and behavior of 978 children.

Key Findings:

  • One in five women experienced depression once
  • 11% of them experienced a reoccurrence in maternal depressive symptoms
  • The longer a mother suffered from depression, the worse the developmental outcomes were, for the children
  • The sooner the depressed mothers were treated for their depression, the better were their chances of improving outcomes in the child development
  • Chronic maternal depressive symptoms were linked to poorer child outcomes than MDS at any single time. The chronicity of the depression symptoms played a crucial role in the development of the child compared to the timing

"Mothers may worry that if they've been depressed during pregnancy then it's too late to do anything about it, but reducing depressive symptoms at any stage is better for them and their children,” MedicalXpress quoted Researcher Dr. Katrina Moss.

The researchers recommend screening for maternal depression to be done while couples start planning a pregnancy and continue throughout the perinatal period and early childhood.

Maternal depression is a significant challenge for women, their families, and the entire community. Women should be cared for in a better way at important times in their lives, said the researchers.

The researchers also opined that women suffering from maternal depression should consult their GP and seek supportive parent resources from organizations like Gidget Foundation or PANDA.

Maternal depressive symptoms include a range of conditions that affect women during pregnancy and up to one year after giving birth.

A 2013 study examined whether early child care moderated the association between maternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing problems during the preschool period. The findings revealed that regulated early child care services reduced the risks of emotional and developmental problems for children of mothers with elevated maternal depressive symptoms.

loneliness and social isolation in chiildren could lead to depression in the future geralt, Pixabay