For pregnant women, depression is an insidious condition that can begin long before a baby is due, affecting the whole family. And yet, until now, the experts have had little to say about how to prevent it.
Babies also become more susceptible to depression after birth, according to a new paper in the journal Psychiatry Research, but researchers have not had much to say about how to prevent that. For the first time, researchers have found that depression during pregnancy can actually take a toll on a mother’s own health.
They found that when a woman had been treated for depression, there was a lower risk of her children having symptoms of depression — particularly her own — when they were older. They also found that if she stopped depression medication after her pregnancy, the link was gone.
The authors of the paper, led by Katherine Newman, an assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University, said their findings suggest that depression treatment during pregnancy can provide a type of preventive “antidepressant” — but they acknowledged that their study cannot prove that these prenatal treatments actually prevented depression in the infants and children.
The key to this finding, the authors said, was that participants in the study — which involved more than 1,300 mothers, most of whom were white and middle-class — weren’t on antidepressants themselves when they gave birth.