12-20 Depression in pregnancy increases risk of mental health problems in children

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Parenting, Stress, Substance Abuse

Depression in pregnancy increases risk of mental health problems in children

Past research has revealed that depression is more common in women than men. It is much more than feeling sad or dejected and is a serious mental condition with symptoms affecting a person’s thoughts, mood and behavior. According to the Mental Health America, nearly 12 million women experience clinical depression every year in the U.S.

The higher probability of women experiencing depression is often accounted for by factors such as domestic violence, sexual assault and molestation. In addition to external reasons, depression in women may occur due to biological changes such as pregnancy, the postpartum period, perimenopause and the menstrual cycle. According to a study, “Maternal depression and mental health in early childhood: an examination of underlying mechanisms in low-income and middle-income countries,” conducted by the Imperial College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry, “depression in pregnancy increases the risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children.” The study further added that the risk is higher in pregnant women in low-income and middle-income countries than in higher income countries.

Details of the study: Effect of depression on the child

Depression during pregnancy is common, primarily due to the hormonal changes that occur. Up to one in five women globally in the late stages of pregnancy, and shortly after birth, are affected by depression. According to the study, depression during this time is characterized by low mood and feelings of hopelessness and is brought on by a number of factors including life events such as bereavement and changes in brain chemistry.

It was further observed that depression during pregnancy may work to “reduce the enzyme in the placenta that breaks down the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, possibly causing more fetal exposure to the hormone.”

According to Professor Vivette Glover, co-author of research from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperia, “treating the depression itself is crucial in reducing the risk to the child, as well as for helping the mother. It shows targeting specific symptoms of depression by using cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can be useful in reducing depression and therefore its effect on the child.”

Depression in women in low- or middle-income countries

Unlike the other studies that have primarily focused on pregnant women of high-income countries, the current study opined that the issue of depression is common in low- and middle-income countries. As a result, the risk factors are often more intense and more common than in high-income countries. Consequently,  maternal depression further leads to poor nutrition, increased substance use, inadequate prenatal care, pre-eclampsia, low birthweight, preterm delivery and suicide.

The study further elaborated that women in low- and middle-income countries are more likely to experience intimate partner violence. As a result, these countries record more unintended pregnancies often accompanied by depression, malnourishment, infections and crowded living conditions Additionally, in countries undergoing “frequent wars, political violence, food insecurity, and little help after natural disasters, health care workers have little time or resources to meet basic physical needs, let alone mental health ones like maternal depression,” added Professor Glover.

Depression needs medical treatment

The study argued that proper management is required to assist pregnant women dealing with depression. Additionally, more research should be conducted in the areas of concern to identify the extent of the problem in order help a mother raise a healthy child.

Depression is a condition that needs immediate medical attention, even if not pregnant. While there is a lot of scope for countries to improve their mental health care system, it is also the responsibility of an individual family to take care of the concern. If you or a loved one is battling depression, the Depression Treatment Centers of California can provide you with information about the best depression treatment facilities in California. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 855-678-0400 or chat online for further information on depression treatment facilities in California. Our representatives can also help you find the best residential treatment centers for depression in California.


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