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Mother's Depression During Infancy Affects Child's Growth

Children of depressed mothers at nine months postpartum have increased odds of being small

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal depression at nine months postpartum may negatively affect physical growth in early childhood, according to a study published online Sept. 10 in Pediatrics.

To assess the correlation between maternal depressive symptoms at nine months postpartum and growth in childhood, Pamela J. Surkan, Sc.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale was used to assess maternal depressive symptoms.

The researchers found that 24 percent of mothers reported mild depressive symptoms and 17 percent reported moderate/severe symptoms at nine months postpartum. Compared with children of women with few or no depressive symptoms, children of mothers with moderate-to-severe levels of depressive symptoms at nine months postpartum had a significantly increased likelihood of being in the ≤10 percent in height-for-age at age 4 (odds ratio, 1.40) and at age 5 (odds ratio, 1.48), after adjustment for household, maternal, and child factors. At age 4 or 5 years, there was no statistically significant association between maternal depressive symptoms and children being ≤10 percent in weight-for-height and weight-for-age.

"Maternal depressive symptoms during infancy may affect physical growth in early childhood," the authors write. "Prevention, early detection, and treatment of maternal depressive symptoms during the first year postpartum may prevent childhood height-for-age ≤10th percentile among preschool- and school-aged children."

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