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Perinatal maternal depressive symptoms and risk of behavioral problems at five years

Abstract

Background

Evidence on the association between perinatal maternal depression and children’s behavioral development is limited. We investigated the association between maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum and the risk of childhood behavioral problems using data from a birth cohort study.

Methods

Study subjects were 1199 mother–child pairs. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale during pregnancy and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 4 months postpartum. Children’s behavioral development at 5 years of age was assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Results

Compared with children whose mothers did not experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy, those whose mothers did experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy had increased risk of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, and low prosocial behavior. Maternal depressive symptoms at around 4 months postpartum were associated with increased risk of childhood emotional problems. Compared with children whose mothers did not experience depressive symptoms during the perinatal period, those whose mothers did experience depressive symptoms both during pregnancy and postpartum had a fivefold increased risk of childhood emotional symptoms and a threefold increased risk of peer problems.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that perinatal maternal depression is associated with behavioral problems in children.

Impact

  • Several epidemiological studies in Western countries have examined the association between perinatal maternal depression and children’s behavioral development, yet the results are conflicting and inconclusive.

  • There is limited evidence on this topic in Asia.

  • In our study using data from a prospective pregnancy birth cohort, maternal depressive symptoms around 4 months postpartum were associated with an increased risk of emotional symptoms in children aged 5 years.

  • Children whose mothers had exhibited depressive symptoms both during pregnancy and postpartum had a fivefold increased risk of childhood emotional symptoms and a threefold increased risk of peer problems.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Kyushu Branch of the Japan Allergy Foundation, the Fukuoka Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Okinawa Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Miyazaki Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Oita Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Kumamoto Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Nagasaki Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Kagoshima Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Saga Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Fukuoka Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Okinawa Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Fukuoka City Government, and the Fukuoka City Medical Association for their valuable support. These organizations did not have any influence on the study design; the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data; the writing of the report; or the decision to submit the article for publication.

Funding

This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers 19590606, 20791654, 21590673, 22592355, 22119507, 24390158, 25463275, 25670305, 17K12011JP, 17H04135JP, and 21H03199JP and by Health and Labour Sciences Research Grants for Research on Allergic Disease and Immunology and Health Research on Children, Youth and Families from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

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Contributions

MY was responsible for the analysis and interpretation of data and the drafting of the manuscript. KT contributed to the study concept and design, the data acquisition, and was responsible for the analysis and interpretation of data and the drafting of the manuscript. YM contributed to the study concept and design, the data acquisition, and assisted in manuscript preparation. MA contributed to the study concept and design and the data acquisition. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Keiko Tanaka.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Consent statement

Mothers gave their written informed consent to participate in the Kyushu Okinawa Maternal and Child Health Study.

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Yamada, M., Tanaka, K., Arakawa, M. et al. Perinatal maternal depressive symptoms and risk of behavioral problems at five years. Pediatr Res 92, 315–321 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-021-01719-9

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