University of Oulu

Marius Lahti, Katri Savolainen, Soile Tuovinen, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Jari Lahti, Kati Heinonen, Esa Hämäläinen, Hannele Laivuori, Pia M. Villa, Rebecca M. Reynolds, Eero Kajantie, Katri Räikkönen, Maternal Depressive Symptoms During and After Pregnancy and Psychiatric Problems in Children, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56, Issue 1, 2017, Pages 30-39.e7, ISSN 0890-8567,

Maternal depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy and psychiatric problems in children

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Author: Lahti, Marius1,2; Savolainen, Katri1; Tuovinen, Soile1;
Organizations: 1Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
2Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK
3Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland
4Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Finland
5Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland
6National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland and Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-11-12


Objective: Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of psychiatric problems in children. A more precise understanding of the timing of the symptoms during pregnancy and their independence of other prenatal and postnatal factors in predicting child psychopathology risk is needed. We examined whether maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy predict child psychiatric problems, whether these associations are trimester- or gestational-week−specific and/or independent of pregnancy disorders, and whether maternal depressive symptoms after pregnancy mediate or add to the prenatal effects.

Method: The study sample comprised 2,296 women and their children born in Finland between 2006−2010, participating in the prospective pregnancy cohort study Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction (PREDO) and followed up from 1.9 to 5.9 years of age. The women completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale biweekly between gestational weeks+days 12+0/13+6 and 38+0/39+6 or delivery. In the follow-up, they completed the Beck Depression Inventory−II and Child Behavior Checklist 1½−5.

Results: Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy predicted significantly higher internalizing (0.28 SD unit per SD unit increase [95% CI = 0.24−0.32]), externalizing (0.26 [0.23−0.30]), and total problems (0.31 [0.27−0.35]) in children. These associations were nonspecific to gestational week and hence pregnancy trimester, independent of pregnancy disorders, and independent of, although partially mediated by, maternal depressive symptoms after pregnancy. Psychiatric problems were greatest in children whose mothers reported clinically significant depressive symptoms across pregnancy trimesters and during and after pregnancy.

Conclusion: Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy predict increased psychiatric problems in young children. Preventive interventions from early pregnancy onward may benefit offspring mental health.

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Series: Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
ISSN: 0890-8567
ISSN-E: 1527-5418
ISSN-L: 0890-8567
Volume: 56
Issue: 1
Pages: 30 - 39
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.10.007
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland, Signe and Ane Gylleberg Foundation, Finnish Graduate School of Psychology, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, EVO (special state subsidy for health science research), Finnish Medical Foundation, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, Sigrid Juselius Foundation, EraNet Neuron, Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust, and University of Helsinki.
Copyright information: © 2016 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license