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Matern Child Nutr. 2007 Apr;3(2):94-107.

Maternal depression and infant growth: a review of recent evidence.

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Department of Community Health, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Private Bag 360, Chichiri, Blantyre 3, Malawi.


Depressive disorder occurring during pregnancy and the post-natal period (maternal depression) is common in both developed and developing countries. It can cause functional impairment at a time when the mother is performing tasks vital to her infant's growth and development. This article reviews recent research investigating whether there is an association between maternal depression and infant growth impairment. A search was made using Medline for articles published in the last 10 years, and the results were scrutinized for relevance and quality. Eight studies from developing countries, and three from the UK, are described. Cohort studies from both India and Pakistan provide evidence that maternal depression is an independent risk factor for poor infant growth. However, studies from other developing countries are limited and conflicting in their findings. The UK-based research suggests that such an association occurs in mothers/infants living in conditions of socio-economic deprivation. This review discusses the potential mechanisms by which the relationship between maternal depression and infant growth outcomes may be explained: the effect of infant growth 'failure' upon maternal mood; the impact of maternal depression upon health-seeking behaviours, breastfeeding and mother-child interaction; the relationship between antenatal depression and low infant birthweight; and economic, socio-cultural and confounding factors that may explain the variation between results from different settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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