Prenatal Maternal Depressive Symptoms Predict Early Infant Health Concerns

S. S. Coburn, Linda Luecken, I. A. Rystad, B. Lin, Keith Crnic, Nancy Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Introduction: Recent research suggests that health disparities among low-SES and ethnic minority populations may originate from prenatal and early life exposures. Postpartum maternal depressive symptoms have been linked to poorer infant physical health, yet prenatal depressive symptoms not been thoroughly examined in relation to infant health. Methods: In a prospective study of low-income Mexican American mothers and their infants, women (N = 322, median age 27.23, IQR = 22.01–32.54) completed surveys during pregnancy (median gestation 39.50, IQR = 38.71–40.14 weeks) and 12 weeks after birth. We investigated (1) if prenatal depressive symptoms predicted infant physical health concerns at 12 weeks of age, (2) whether these associations occurred above and beyond concurrent depressive symptoms, and (3) if birth weight, gestational age, and breastfeeding were mediators of prenatal depression predicting subsequent infant health. Results: Higher prenatal depressive symptoms were associated with more infant physical health concerns at 12 weeks (p < .001), after accounting for 12-week maternal depressive symptoms, breastfeeding, gestational age, and birth weight. Twelve-week maternal depressive symptoms were concurrently associated with more infant health concerns (p < .01). Birth weight, gestational age, and breastfeeding were not associated with maternal depression or infant health concerns. Discussion: Results establish a link between prenatal depressive symptoms and an elevated risk of poor health evident shortly after birth. These findings underscore the importance of the prenatal period as a possible sensitive period for infants’ health, and the need for effective interventions for depression during pregnancy to mitigate potentially teratogenic effects on the developing fetus and reduce risks for later health concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-793
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Health
  • Infant
  • Mother
  • Prenatal depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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