Maternal Depression Can Affect Kids' Mental Health Too, Study Says

Yet another reason we need to be talking openly about maternal depression.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Aug 2018
mom holding baby black and white

Moms who suffer from depression often feel they have to put on a brave face for the sake of their family. While it may be easier to pretend, the only way to really overcome depression is by seeking help. And it’s more important than ever: A new study suggests kids with mothers who suffer from depression may be at a greater risk for psychological disorders.

“If you grow up with a clinically depressed mother, your body’s stress response and immunity are [affected],” Ruth Feldman, a study author and professor of developmental neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzlia in Israel tells Reuters.

The study was conducted over the course of 10 years, where Feldman’s team followed 125 newborns. When the infants reached the six-month marker, the moms were asked to fill out questionnaires designed to look at levels of depression and anxiety. The researchers then periodically checked in with the families over the course of a decade.

The results? The study found depression not only increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but also takes a toll of moms’ parenting. “Depressed mothers are less engaged, less empathetic,” Feldman says. “They are more critical and hostile, and are less sensitive to the child’s non-verbal and verbal social communication.”

Children with depressed moms were also more likely to act out or to be anxious, and were more withdrawn from situations.

“We really need to get these moms treated,” Priya Gopalan, chief of psychiatry at the Magee-Womens Hospital and the Western Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells Reuters. “We also don’t want to shame our moms. They already feel guilt about what they are experiencing.”

No one should feel guilty for suffering from depression, especially moms. The study simply underscores how important it is for us to highlight maternal depression as a public health concern that many moms silently suffer from.

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