Even mild depressive symptoms of the mother affect the infant’s mental health

According to a recent study, infants’ emotional problems, such as hyperactivity, aggression, and anxiety, are directly linked to the presence of maternal depression symptoms.

In the study, we investigated how children aged 2 to 5 years are affected by depressive symptoms of both parents. It has been found that father depression only affects children emotionally if the mother experiences depressive symptoms. On the contrary, the mother’s symptoms had an impact on the children, even if the father was not depressed.

In Finland, more than 20% of parents have mild depression symptoms. Severe symptoms are experienced by approximately 9% of mothers and 2.5% of fathers.

Johanna Pietikäinen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), explains that depression in parents, both during and after pregnancy, does not only affect the parent experiencing it. , but in the long run, it also affects the child’s mental health. Even in cases of mild depression, it is important that symptoms are treated promptly and that parents are supported as early as possible, even during pregnancy.

As she adds, depression in the mother has a profound effect on the child’s mental health. In Finland, although the system at the midwifery clinics is working effectively, additional attention needs to be given to mothers who have been experiencing symptoms of depression for a long period, from birth to completion of their first year of life.

Depression of one parent endangers the other parent’s mental health

Depression in one parent increases the likelihood of depression in the other parent. Symptoms can last for a long time in both parents, from birth until the child’s first birthday.

Pietikäinen points out that both parents need to be mentally healthy during pregnancy and after birth, and if either parent has symptoms of depression, they need to monitor the other parent’s symptoms. However, the depression questionnaires available at maternity hospitals cannot adequately assess fathers’ mental well-being.

Previous experiences of depression are the most important risk factor

Long-term depression is an indication that she was pregnant before. In the study, previous experiences of depression were a predictor of the presence of severe or moderate depressive symptoms.

Some additional predictors are insomnia during pregnancy, stress, anxiety and adverse family conditions. These symptoms predicted depression for both mother and father.

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