Postpartum Depression: New Studies

Two newly published studies reinforce the negative impact of maternal depression on children’s health.

Today’s “Journal of the American Medical Association” (JAMA) and “Archives of Disease in Childhood” (ADC) both contain important new studies regarding the effect of maternal mood disorders on children’s health (emotional and physical). The JAMA article, Remissions in Maternal Depression and Child Psychopathology (Weissman et al.), notes that moms who remain depressed after birth are more likely to have kids with diagnosable mental disorders than those moms who are effectively treated. The ADC piece, The influence of maternal socioeconomic and emotional factors on infant weight gain and weight faltering (failure to thrive): data from a prospective birth cohort (Wright et al.), finds that infants of depressed mothers have significantly poorer weight gain compared with controls, replicating earlier studies. One such study, published last year in “Pediatrics” (Maternal depressive symptoms and children’s receipt of health care in the first 3 years of life, Mikovitz et al.), reveals that children of depressed mothers have more visits to emergency rooms and fewer well-child preventive visits to pediatricians, both significant indicators of poor quality health care.

Pediatricians need to step up efforts to screen mothers at newborn and infant visits for postpartum mood disorders (PPMD’s). Early identification and treatment of PPMD’s will hopefully lead to improved well-being for our littlest ones.

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