Association of maternal depression and anxiety with toddler social-emotional and cognitive development in South Africa: A prospective cohort study

Lauren C. Shuffrey, Ayesha Sania, Natalie H. Brito, Mandy Potter, Priscilla Springer, Maristella Lucchini, Yael K. Rayport, Carlie Du Plessis, Hein J. Odendaal, William P. Fifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective A robust literature has identified associations between prenatal maternal depression and adverse child social-emotional and cognitive outcomes. The majority of prior research is from high-income countries despite increased reporting of perinatal depression in low/middle-income countries (LMICs). Additionally, despite the comorbidity between depression and anxiety, few prior studies have examined their joint impact on child neurodevelopment. The objective of the current analysis was to examine associations between prenatal maternal depression and anxiety with child social-emotional and cognitive development in a cohort from the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Design Prenatal maternal depression and anxiety were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Scale at 20-24 weeks' gestation. Child neurobehaviour was assessed at age 3 using the Brief Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III Screening Test (BSID-III ST). We used linear regression models to examine the independent and joint association between prenatal maternal depression, anxiety and child developmental outcomes. Results Participants consisted of 600 maternal-infant dyads (274 females; gestational age at birth: 38.89 weeks±2.03). Children born to mothers with both prenatal depression and trait anxiety had higher social-emotional problems (mean difference: 4.66; 95% CI 3.43 to 5.90) compared with children born to mothers with no prenatal depression or trait anxiety, each condition alone, or compared with mothers with depression and state anxiety. Additionally, children born to mothers with prenatal maternal depression and trait anxiety had the greatest reduction in mean cognitive scores on the BSID-III ST (mean difference: -1.04; 95% CI -1.99 to -0.08). Conclusions The observed association between comorbid prenatal maternal depression and chronic anxiety with subsequent child social-emotional and cognitive development underscores the need for targeting mental health support among perinatal women in LMICs to improve long-term child neurobehavioural outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere058135
JournalBMJ open
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 13 2022

Keywords

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Child & adolescent psychiatry
  • Community child health
  • Depression & mood disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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