December 4, 2013
Depression is a serious mental illness that has many negative consequences for sufferers. But depression among pregnant women may also have an impact on their developing babies.
Children of depressed parents are at an increased risk of developing depression themselves, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. These children also display alterations in the amygdala, a brain structure important for the regulation of emotion and stress.
This study provides added evidence supporting the notion that mental health screening should be included among the medical evaluations that women undergo when they discover that they are pregnant. Indeed, the authors conclude that their study supports that "interventions targeting maternal depression should begin early in pregnancy."
"Attention to maternal health during pregnancy is an extremely high priority for society for many reasons," added Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "The notion that maternal depression might influence the brain development of their babies is very concerning. The good news is that this risk might be reduced by systematic screening of pregnant women for depression and initiating effective treatment."