Some Sadness is OK for Babies

Postnatal depression does not affect IQ in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Although postpartum depression is known to negatively impact the mental development of babies, little has been researched regarding when this hindrance occurs.

A new study available through the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry highlights the effects of maternal depression in regards to the timing of the exposure on the child.

Research suggests that postpartum depression at birth up until six weeks after does not affect the mental well being of a child.

"Always seek treatment for depression.  "

Jonathan Evans, Ph.D., lead author on the study and professor at the University of Bristol, concludes, “The postnatal period is not a sensitive one for the effect of maternal depression on child cognitive development.”

Six thousand seven hundred and thirty-five children were examined from birth until age eight with five thousand and twenty-nine mothers completing mood assessments throughout that time period under the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

On six occasions up until the child was three years of age, mothers reported self-measures of maternal depression using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, developed in 1987 to determine postpartum depression.

Children underwent IQ tests at age eight while the mothers completed additional mood assessments.

The data gathered from assessments was used to separate women into groups by time period of depression, whether it be in the antenatal, postnatal or preschool period, a combination of times, or not at all.

Investigators compared generalized depression models with the gathered data in order to identify any relationships between the timing of maternal depression and the cognitive development of offspring.

Dr. Evans notes, “...there was no effect of postnatal depression on child IQ independent of depression at other times.”

According to the National Institute of Health, postpartum depression may occur as soon as delivery and up to a year after. The hormones released during pregnancy affect every woman’s body differently, and many mood changes occur because of these hormones.

Additional non-hormonal factors include relationship changes, body alterations, sleep issues, and the overall lifestyle change of motherhood.

Antenatal and postpartum depression affect women much like general depression with one key difference: new mothers and mothers-to-be tend to foster additional guilt because of their feelings in a proposed time of joy.

It’s important to be understanding of the overwhelming change associated with pregnancy and to recommend free communication with doctors or midwives regarding negative emotions or anxieties.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 28, 2011
Last Updated:
December 29, 2011