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Maternal antenatal mood and child development: an exploratory study of treatment effects on child outcomes up to 5 years

  • J. Milgrom (a1) (a2), C. J. Holt (a1), L. S. Bleker (a3), C. Holt (a1), J. Ross (a1), J. Ericksen (a1), V. Glover (a4), K. J. O’Donnell (a5) (a6), S. R. de Rooij (a3) and A. W. Gemmill (a1)...


Effective treatment of maternal antenatal depression may ameliorate adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring. We performed two follow-up rounds of children at age 2 and age 5 whose mothers had received either specialized cognitive-behavioural therapy or routine care for depression while pregnant. Of the original cohort of 54 women, renewed consent was given by 28 women for 2-year follow-up and by 24 women for 5-year follow-up. Child assessments at the 2-year follow-up included the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-III) and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). The 5-year follow-up included the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI-III) and again the CBCL. Treatment during pregnancy showed significant benefits for children’s development at age 2, but not at age 5. At 2 years, intervention effects were found with lower scores on the PSI Total score, Parent Domain and Child domain (d=1.44, 1.47, 0.96 respectively). A non-significant trend favoured the intervention group on most subscales of the CBCL and the BSID-III (most notably motor development: d =0.52). In contrast, at 5-year follow-up, no intervention effects were found. Also, irrespective of treatment allocation, higher depression or anxiety during pregnancy was associated with higher CBCL and lower WPPSI-III scores at 5 years. This is one of the first controlled studies to evaluate the long-term effect of antenatal depression treatment on infant neurodevelopmental outcomes, showing some benefit. Nevertheless, caution should be taken interpreting the results because of a small sample size, and larger studies are warranted.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: L. S. Bleker, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, Amsterdam UMC, location AMC, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: I.s.bleker@amc.uva.n


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