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30-06-2011 | Psychology | Article

Postpartum depression linked to impaired language development in children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children of mothers who experience persistent postpartum depression show impaired language development at 12 months of age, suggest study findings.

"It is important to recognize depressive symptoms in new mothers early and to begin intervention strategies promptly that can prevent future problems in child development," say Ricardo Pinheiro (Catholic University of Pelotas, Brazil) and colleagues.

For the longitudinal study, 296 mothers who received prenatal care from the Brazilian National System of Public Health in Pelotas city were interviewed at two time points, between 30-90 days, and 12 months postpartum. Their children were evaluated at the later time point. Maternal depression was diagnosed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, and child development was assessed using the language scale of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III.

Postpartum maternal depression was significantly associated with child language development at 12 months of age. Children whose mothers were depressed during both assessments had significantly more language impairment compared with children of mothers who were depressed at either 30-90 days or 12 months postpartum, or not at all (Mean Language Scale Bayley-III score=97.43 vs 107.24 and 105.95, or 108.59, respectively).

Regression analysis revealed that women with more than two children were significantly more likely to have children with poorer language development (scoring 5 points lower than the average for children with one, or no siblings). Children cared for by people other than their mother also scored, on average, 3 points less than those cared for solely by their mother.

Furthermore, mothers who were aged up to 19 years had children with better language scores than those who were older, although this association only reached marginal significance (average 3-point improvement on the Bayley-III).

Writing in the journal Child: care, health and development, the researchers conclude that the significant association found between postpartum depression and child development "should highlight to health professionals that there is a need for an early strategy to treat depressed women in the postpartum period."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Ingrid Grasmo

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