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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Mar;89(3):951S-957S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26692E. Epub 2009 Jan 28.

Maternal depressive symptoms and infant growth in rural Bangladesh.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Depressive disorders are a major source of disability among low-income mothers in developing countries.


The objectives were to examine the association of maternal depressive symptoms and infant growth among infants in rural Bangladesh and to examine how the relation is affected by infant irritability and caregiving practices.


Infant growth was measured among 221 infants at 6 and 12 mo. Mothers reported their depressive symptoms and perceptions of their infant's temperament, and a home observation of caregiving was conducted.


At 6 mo, 18% of infants were stunted (length-for-age < -2 z scores). At 12 mo, 36.9% of infants were stunted; infants of mothers with depressive symptoms had a 2.17 higher odds of being stunted (95% CI: 1.24, 3.81; P = 0.007) than did infants of mothers with few symptoms (45.3% compared with 27.6%). In a multivariate regression analysis, maternal depressive symptoms were associated with 12-mo length-for-age, adjusted for 6-mo length-for-age, maternal education, infant sex, birth order, receipt of iron and zinc, months breastfed, maternal perception of infant temperament, and caregiving observations. Maternal depressive symptoms were not related to 12-mo weight-for-length. The relation between depressive symptoms and infant growth was not moderated by maternal perceptions of infant temperament, but was partially mediated by caregiving.


The finding that infants of mothers with depressive symptoms in Bangladesh experience poor linear growth may extend to other low-income countries with high rates of food insecurity. Interventions to promote growth in infants should include prevention or treatment of maternal depressive disorders and strategies to ensure adequate food security.

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