Maternal Depression During Pregnancy Linked To Depression In Young Adults

Children of women who suffered from depression during pregnancy are at an increased risk for depression at age 18, says a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Centre for Mental Health at the University of Bristol in England recently investigated a link between maternal depression during pregnancy and an increased risk of depression among the children born from those pregnancy in young adulthood.

To investigate a possible link between depression during pregnancy and depression in offspring, the researchers looked at data from a UK community-based birth cohort of more than 4,500 parents and their adolescent offspring.

Teenagers of mothers who suffered from depression during pregnancy were 1.28 times more likely to suffer from depression at age 18. Children of mothers who both suffered from postpartum depression and had a lower education level were also 1.26 times more likely to suffer from depression during early adulthood. Education appeared to mitigate the effects of postpartum depression on children, as women with more education who suffered from depression after pregnancy did not have children with an increased risk of depression.

The biggest factor that increased the risk for depression in children at age 18 was maternal depression during pregnancy regardless of maternal education.

As the authors of the study conclude:

“The findings have important implications for the nature and timing of interventions aimed at preventing depression in the offspring of depressed mothers. In particular, the findings suggest that treating depression in pregnancy, irrespective of background, may be most effective.”

The risks associated with maternal depression during pregnancy and maternal depression after pregnancy are clearly different. While maternal education can decrease the risks from postpartum depression, depression during pregnancy negatively affects children during early adulthood.

What women should take away from this study is that depression during pregnancy should be taken seriously and should be treated accordingly to prevent an increased of depression their children.