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Depression in pregnant women appears to increase the risk of their children also experiencing depression as young adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 8 percent of pregnant women experience depression. Because late adolescent depression is a worldwide public health issue, a precursor like this would help identify those at risk at an earlier age.
This study examined possible associations between prenatal and postnatal depression in women and later depression of their children at age 18. Researchers used data from more than 4,500 parents and their adolescent children. They found that children were more likely to have depression at age 18 if their mothers were depressed during the pregnancy. Depression was defined by increases in prenatal and postnatal maternal depression scores measured on self-reported depression questionnaires. Measurements of parental depression were made before and after the children were born.
Postnatal depression was also a risk factor for mothers with low education. Their children were more likely to have depression based on higher depression scores. The higher the mother's education, the more likely she has multiple sources of psychosocial support. Mothers with more education are more likely to access child care. Educated women often have more positive home environments, which in turn can be protective in the context of adolescent depression. Paternal depression also influenced children, but only in the case of low education.
"The findings have important implications for the nature and timing of interventions aimed at preventing depression in the offspring of depressed mothers," says the study. "In particular, the findings suggest that treating depression in pregnancy, irrespective of background, may be most effective."
Source: JAMA Psychiatry
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