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Study: Maternal Depression Linked to Shorter Children


A number of studies over the years have examined the developmental impact maternal depression can have on newborns and infants. Maternal depressive symptoms can be linked to poor feeding practices (including shorter duration of breast-feeding and attachment issues), and increased stress in children.

But one new study has come up with a surprising finding: children of depressed mothers are shorter on average than their peers going into preschool and kindergarten.

In the study, “Impact of Maternal Depressive Symptoms on Growth of Preschool- and School-Aged Children,” in the October 2012 Pediatrics (published online Sept. 10), researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tracked 6,000 mothers and babies to determine if maternal depressive symptoms at 9 months postpartum negatively affected growth in children over 3 years of age.  

At the nine-month mark, 24 percent of mothers reported having mild depressive symptoms and 17 percent had moderate to severe symptoms. 

Kids whose mothers displayed mild symptoms of postpartum depression were observed to be shorter than average, however, this trait gradually disappeared by age five. For children whose mothers suffered from moderate or severe symptoms of depression, the chances of being shorter increased from 40 percent to 50 percent during the transition from four to five years of age.

Plus: When Postpartum Depression Lasts

Based on the findings, the researchers advocated for prevention, early detection, and treatment of these symptoms in the first year after mothers have given birth.

Tell us your story. Did you suffer from postpartum depression? And if so, what impact do you think it may have had on your child? Let us know in the comments