Adult Depression Risk Higher If Mother Was Depressed While Pregnant

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Adults are as much as three times more likely to have depression if their mothers had depression while they were pregnant. In addition, they can be up to twice as likely to have experienced maltreatment as children.

Dominic Plant, PhD, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, and colleagues examined depression in pregnancy, child maltreatment and offspring adult depression in 103 mothers and their children born in 1987. The data was culled from a longitudinal child development study.

Of 35 adult offspring whose mothers were depressed during pregnancy, 57% met criteria for depression, compared to 28% of those born to mothers who were not depressed, the researchers reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Child maltreatment, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, was measured in the offspring at ages 11, 16 and 25 through interviews with the offspring and the primary caregiver, which was usually the mother. Almost half — 49% — of the offspring born to depressed mothers had experienced childhood maltreatment, compared to 28% in those whose mothers were not depressed.

“Taken together, our findings support the notion that exposure to maternal depression during pregnancy and exposure to child maltreatment are likely part of the same pathway to adulthood depression,” Plant said in a statement. “By intervening during pregnancy, rates of both child maltreatment and depressive disorders in the young adult population could potentially be reduced.”

He added that the results indicate that the use of antidepressants in pregnancy may be beneficial “by highlighting the adverse consequences of not treating depression.”

Impact of Depression Treatment During Pregnancy Unclear
People born to mothers who were depressed during pregnancy are much more likely to develop depression as adults.

People born to mothers who are depressed during pregnancy are up to three times more likely to have depression in later life and up to twice as likely to have experienced child maltreatment, primarily at the hands of peers and other adults in the home, according to new research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London.

Depression in pregnancy is much more common than previously thought, with approximately one in 12 pregnant women suffering from clinically significant levels of depression. Although previous research has documented a link between depression during pregnancy and depression in adolescent offspring, this is the first study to examine the association in adulthood.

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