Depression in either parent 'can increase risk of premature birth'

25 January 2016

A baby's risk of being born prematurely may be elevated if either parent experiences depression during the pregnancy period, according to a new study.

The research, led by the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, looked at more than 350,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2012 to examine signs of parental depression alongside the incidence rate of very or moderately preterm births.

Both new and recurrent depression in mothers was associated with an increase of between 30 and 40 per cent in the risk of moderately premature birth, while new depression in fathers was associated with a 38 per cent higher risk of very preterm birth.

It was explained that depression in a partner can often be a significant source of stress for an expectant mother, while paternal depression can affect sperm quality, produce epigenetic effects on the DNA of the baby, and affect placental function.

Professor Anders Hjern from the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm said: "Our results suggest that both maternal and paternal depression should be considered in preterm birth prevention strategies and both parents should be screened for mental health problems."

It was noted that it could be beneficial for men to be targeted specifically, as they tend to be reticent about seeking help for mental health problems.

Posted by Edward Bartel



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