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A mother's poor mental health may harm child development, study says

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy were associated with deficits in childhood development, a study has found. Mothers can manage their mental health for the health of themselves and their babies, and especially during the pandemic.

(CNN)A mother's depression and anxiety from conception through the first year of the baby's life is associated with negative developmental outcomes through adolescence, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

A mother experiencing depression and anxiety before and after birth was moderately linked with her child's deficits in language and cognitive and motor development in infancy.

Researchers have conducted reviews of studies on the relationship between a woman's mental health during this time and her child's development — but they hadn't previously evaluated the long-term effects of depression and anxiety at different stages of motherhood on a range of developmental functions from infancy through adolescence, the study said.

The neurocognitive changes that prepare mothers to be able to sensitively respond to their infants could also be hampered by experiencing depression and anxiety during pregnancy, the study said.

The authors lacked details about individual, family and social factors that could have affected the mothers' mental health and their children's development, said the study's senior author Delyse Hutchinson, an associate professor in the school of psychology at the Centre for Early Social and Emotional Development at Deakin University in Australia.

"Perinatal difficulties are often overlooked," Hutchinson said, "and many women do not seek help because they think it is expected that mothers feel down, tired or worried or because they are concerned about the stigma related to mental health. "

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