Postnatal depression is known to have a negative impact on the child making it develop more slowly than their peers but UK study has found that a depression during pregnancy could have the same negative effects.
Depression during pregnancy could translate to cognitive or behavioural problems in children later on.
Midwives, who get in contact with pregnant women, are trained to spot depression. It is essential they, as well as doctors, played an active role in assessing and identifying the condition.
Suffering from depression in pregnancy could mean a third greater chance of cognitive or behavioural problems. In a study of 11,098 women and their children, the researchers assessed the level of depression shown by women during pregnancy and looked for a relationship between this and any developmental problems in their children later on. Women with persistent depression during pregnancy were 50% more likely to have children with diagnosed problems.
It is still not certain why antenatal depression increases risks of developmental problems but researchers believe that some of that risk comes from the fact that being depressed during pregnancy boosts the chances of postnatal depression, a known risk factor for developmental delay in children.
However, the latest study showed that a 34% rise in risk could be linked independently to antenatal depression, and nothing else. One of the suggestions is that women who are depressed prior to birth may be more likely to give birth prematurely.
One thing is certain: maternal antenatal depression has a negative impact on children's cognitive development even when postnatal depression has been taken into account.
In cases where the problem is serious, pregnant women should be referred to a GP or a community psychiatric nurse so that she can get the support and help she needs.
There are still many mysteries linked to depression and mental illness in pregnancy, but it certainly help just to acknowledge when there is a problem.