Official reprint from UpToDate®
www.uptodate.com ©2017 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

Postpartum depression: Risks of abnormal child development

Adele Viguera, MD
Section Editors
Peter P Roy-Byrne, MD
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Postpartum maternal depression is associated with adverse effects upon infant and child development [1-3]. In addition, postnatal depression is associated with cognitive impairment and psychopathology in the offspring.

This topic reviews the association between postpartum depression and abnormal infant and child development. The association of postnatal depression with cognitive impairment and psychopathology in the offspring is discussed separately, as are the clinical features, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of postpartum depression:

(See "Postpartum depression: Risks of cognitive impairment and psychopathology in the children".)

(See "Postpartum unipolar major depression: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis".)

(See "Mild to moderate postpartum unipolar major depression: Treatment".)

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information on subscription options, click below on the option that best describes you:

Subscribers log in here

Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 09, 2016.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2017 UpToDate, Inc.
  1. O'Hara MW, Wisner KL. Perinatal mental illness: definition, description and aetiology. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2014; 28:3.
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. NICE clinical guideline 192. December 2014. http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed on January 28, 2016).
  3. Stein A, Pearson RM, Goodman SH, et al. Effects of perinatal mental disorders on the fetus and child. Lancet 2014; 384:1800.
  4. Stewart DE. Clinical practice. Depression during pregnancy. N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1605.
  5. Grigoriadis S, VonderPorten EH, Mamisashvili L, et al. The impact of maternal depression during pregnancy on perinatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry 2013; 74:e321.
  6. Pearlstein T. Depression during Pregnancy. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2015; 29:754.
  7. Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M. Prenatal depression effects and interventions: a review. Infant Behav Dev 2010; 33:409.
  8. Verkuijl NE, Richter L, Norris SA, et al. Postnatal depressive symptoms and child psychological development at 10 years: a prospective study of longitudinal data from the South African Birth to Twenty cohort. Lancet Psychiatry 2014; 1:454.
  9. Raposa E, Hammen C, Brennan P, Najman J. The long-term effects of maternal depression: early childhood physical health as a pathway to offspring depression. J Adolesc Health 2014; 54:88.
  10. Rahman A, Bunn J, Lovel H, Creed F. Maternal depression increases infant risk of diarrhoeal illness: --a cohort study. Arch Dis Child 2007; 92:24.
  11. Baker R, Tata LJ, Orton E, Kendrick D. Maternal depression and risk of injuries in children aged 0-4 years: a population-based cohort study. Lancet 2015; 386:S21.
  12. Adewuya AO, Ola BO, Aloba OO, et al. Impact of postnatal depression on infants' growth in Nigeria. J Affect Disord 2008; 108:191.
  13. Rahman A, Iqbal Z, Bunn J, et al. Impact of maternal depression on infant nutritional status and illness: a cohort study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004; 61:946.
  14. Avan B, Richter LM, Ramchandani PG, et al. Maternal postnatal depression and children's growth and behaviour during the early years of life: exploring the interaction between physical and mental health. Arch Dis Child 2010; 95:690.
  15. Grote V, Vik T, von Kries R, et al. Maternal postnatal depression and child growth: a European cohort study. BMC Pediatr 2010; 10:14.
  16. Ertel KA, Koenen KC, Rich-Edwards JW, Gillman MW. Maternal depressive symptoms not associated with reduced height in young children in a US prospective cohort study. PLoS One 2010; 5:e13656.
  17. Surkan PJ, Ettinger AK, Ahmed S, et al. Impact of maternal depressive symptoms on growth of preschool- and school-aged children. Pediatrics 2012; 130:e847.
  18. Ertel KA, Koenen KC, Rich-Edwards JW, Gillman MW. Antenatal and postpartum depressive symptoms are differentially associated with early childhood weight and adiposity. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2010; 24:179.
  19. Lupien SJ, Parent S, Evans AC, et al. Larger amygdala but no change in hippocampal volume in 10-year-old children exposed to maternal depressive symptomatology since birth. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011; 108:14324.
  20. Lebel C, Walton M, Letourneau N, et al. Prepartum and Postpartum Maternal Depressive Symptoms Are Related to Children's Brain Structure in Preschool. Biol Psychiatry 2016; 80:859.
  21. Feldman R, Granat A, Pariente C, et al. Maternal depression and anxiety across the postpartum year and infant social engagement, fear regulation, and stress reactivity. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2009; 48:919.
  22. Eastwood JG, Jalaludin BB, Kemp LA, et al. Relationship of postnatal depressive symptoms to infant temperament, maternal expectations, social support and other potential risk factors: findings from a large Australian cross-sectional study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2012; 12:148.
  23. Conroy S, Pariante CM, Marks MN, et al. Maternal psychopathology and infant development at 18 months: the impact of maternal personality disorder and depression. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2012; 51:51.
  24. McGrath JM, Records K, Rice M. Maternal depression and infant temperament characteristics. Infant Behav Dev 2008; 31:71.
  25. Diego MA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M. Prepartum, postpartum and chronic depression effects on neonatal behavior. Infant Behav Dev 2005; 28:155.
  26. Weinberg MK, Tronick EZ. The impact of maternal psychiatric illness on infant development. J Clin Psychiatry 1998; 59 Suppl 2:53.
  27. Murray L, Fiori-Cowley A, Hooper R, Cooper P. The impact of postnatal depression and associated adversity on early mother-infant interactions and later infant outcome. Child Dev 1996; 67:2512.
  28. Beck CT. A meta-analysis of the relationship between postpartum depression and infant temperament. Nurs Res 1996; 45:225.
  29. Beck CT. The effects of postpartum depression on child development: a meta-analysis. Arch Psychiatr Nurs 1998; 12:12.
  30. Accortt EE, Cheadle AC, Dunkel Schetter C. Prenatal depression and adverse birth outcomes: an updated systematic review. Matern Child Health J 2015; 19:1306.
  31. Apter-Levy Y, Feldman M, Vakart A, et al. Impact of maternal depression across the first 6 years of life on the child's mental health, social engagement, and empathy: The moderating role of oxytocin. Am J Psychiatry 2013; 170:1161.
  32. Ramchandani P, Stein A, Evans J, et al. Paternal depression in the postnatal period and child development: a prospective population study. Lancet 2005; 365:2201.
  33. Martins C, Gaffan EA. Effects of early maternal depression on patterns of infant-mother attachment: a meta-analytic investigation. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2000; 41:737.
  34. Murray L, Arteche A, Fearon P, et al. Maternal postnatal depression and the development of depression in offspring up to 16 years of age. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2011; 50:460.
  35. Hayes LJ, Goodman SH, Carlson E. Maternal antenatal depression and infant disorganized attachment at 12 months. Attach Hum Dev 2013; 15:133.
  36. Tharner A, Luijk MP, van Ijzendoorn MH, et al. Maternal lifetime history of depression and depressive symptoms in the prenatal and early postnatal period do not predict infant-mother attachment quality in a large, population-based Dutch cohort study. Attach Hum Dev 2012; 14:63.
  37. Koutra K, Chatzi L, Bagkeris M, et al. Antenatal and postnatal maternal mental health as determinants of infant neurodevelopment at 18 months of age in a mother-child cohort (Rhea Study) in Crete, Greece. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2013; 48:1335.
  38. Cornish AM, McMahon CA, Ungerer JA, et al. Postnatal depression and infant cognitive and motor development in the second postnatal year: The impact of depression chronicity and infant gender. Infant Behav Dev 2005; 28:407.