Impact of a mother’s perinatal depression on a child’s development


A mother’s health during pregnancy and in the first weeks following delivery can have an impact on her future health. A new report looks at how her mental health could also impact her child’s development through not only infancy, but childhood and adolescence.

A mother’s health during the end of pregnancy and the first weeks following delivery can have an impact on not only her health outcomes, but her offspring’s as well. A new systematic review and meta-analysis in JAMA Pediatrics looked at the effect that maternal perinatal depression and anxiety had on the offspring’s development in the first 18 years of life.1

The investigators used 6 databases: CINAHL Complete, Cochrane Library, Embase, Informit, MEDLINE Complete, and PsycInfo, to search for studies that reported information on the link between perinatal maternal mental health problems and offspring development. They included studies that were published in English, had a human sample, collected quantitative data, utilized a longitudinal design, examined measures of perinatal depression as well as development in the offspring, and investigated whether there was a link between perinatal depression or anxiety and childhood development.

The researchers found 191 unique studies that met their criteria, which created a combined sample of 195,751 unique mother-child pairs. They found that maternal perinatal depression and anxiety were linked with poorer development in the following areas:

  • cognitive (antenatal period, r = −0.12 [95% CI, –0.19 to –0.05]; postnatal period, r = −0.25 [95% CI, –0.39 to –0.09])
  • language (antenatal period, r = −0.11 [95% CI, −0.20 to 0.02]; postnatal period, r = −0.22 [95% CI, −0.40 to 0.03])
  • adaptive behavior (antenatal period, r = −0.26 [95% CI, −0.39 to −0.12])
  • offspring social-emotional (antenatal period, r = 0.21 [95% CI, 0.16-0.27]; postnatal period, r = 0.24 [95% CI, 0.19-0.28])
  • motor (antenatal period, r = −0.07 [95% CI, −0.18 to 0.03]; postnatal period, r = −0.07 [95% CI, −0.16 to 0.03])

The investigators found that this went beyond only the infant years and lasted into both childhood and adolescence. The robust nature of the results was confirmed through meta-regression.

They concluded that maternal anxiety and depression in the perinatal period did have a negative association with the child’s development. The results indicated that preventing depression and anxiety in this period as well as utilizing early interventions could have positive impact on the development of many children.

For more on maternal depression's impact on a child's development, click here.


1. Rogers A, Obst S, Teague S et al. Association between maternal perinatal depression and anxiety and child and adolescent development. JAMA Pediatr. September 14, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.2910

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