Calgary researchers find depression during pregnancy relates to children's brain structure later in life
Scientist encourages screening moms for prenatal depression, instead of only after childbirth
Researchers at the University of Calgary have linked mothers' prenatal depression with changes in their children's brain structure, which could lead to mental health problems and behaviour issues later in life.
The findings have prompted one researcher to encourage screening for expectant women.
Dr. Catherine Lebel, an assistant professor in the University of Calgary's department of radiology, found kids born to mothers who experience more depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy had altered brain development.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain structure of children between the ages of two and five.
Their work is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Scientists believe changes in brain structure could lead to issues later in life, such as struggling in school and having trouble relating to others.
Despite those risks, Lebel said prenatal depression isn't top of mind the way postpartum depression is.
"There's a message here for healthcare practitioners, that is, prenatal depression is a serious problem, not just for women but potentially has lasting consequences for her baby. So screening is important," she said.
"Secondly for women, this is potentially not just you, it's your baby too. So take it seriously, get treated, get some support."
About 18 per cent of women experience depression at some point during their pregnancy, and 13 per cent of women experience depression postpartum.
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With files from Jennifer Lee