Previous studies have reported postpartum depression to be associated with both positive and negative effects on early infant growth. This study examined the hypothesis that maternal postnatal depression may be a risk factor for later child growth faltering or overweight.
A total of 929 women and their children participating in a European multicenter study were included at a median age of 14 days. Mothers completed the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale (EPDS) at 2, 3 and 6 months after delivery. EPDS scores of 13 and above at any time were defined as maternal depression. Weight, length, triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses were measured, and body mass index (BMI) were calculated when the children were two years old and converted to standard deviation scores based on the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS).
Z-scores for weight-for-length at inclusion of infants of mothers with high EPDS scores (-0.55, SD 0.74) were lower than of those with normal scores (-0.36, SD 0.74; p = 0.013). BMI at age 24 months did not differ in the high (16.3 kg/m2, SD 1.3) and in the normal EPDS groups (16.2 kg/m2, SD 1.3; p = 0.48). All other anthropometric indices also did not differ between groups, with no change by multivariate adjustment.
We conclude that a high maternal postnatal depression score does not have any major effects on offspring growth in high income countries.