Maternal depression may stunt children's growth, study suggests

10/2/2012 | Pediatrics

Babies whose mothers are depressed during their first year have increased odds of being shorter than their peers by preschool and kindergarten, concludes a new study in Pediatrics. Researchers evaluated government-study data for 6,500 children who were born in the U.S. in 2001 and followed through 2007. Children whose mothers were depressed at 9 months after delivery were 40% more likely to be in the lowest 10th percentile in height-for-age at age 4 and 48% more likely to be in this reduced-growth category at age 5. No association was found between maternal depression and reduced weight-for-age. A potential cause for the depression-height link, hypothesize the authors, is that mothers who are depressed may not be as responsive to their babies’ feeding needs. Additionally, maternal depression can lead to increased stress in children, which may affect growth. The findings reinforce the need for early detection and treatment of early maternal depression, conclude the authors. Read the abstract.

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