Nieman: Study finds young children at risk from maternal depression

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Experts in the area have pleaded for better use of screening tools, better reimbursement for clinicians, improved parental leave for both mothers and fathers and expansion of current medicare resources, especially for lower social-economic classes.

The needle has hardly shifted in the right direction. And if the topic of maternal depression was a priority in the past, it has been moved to the side because there are so many other current competing public health issues such as addictions, overdoses, obesity, smoking, diabetes, vaping, and suicide to name but a few.

Much more research is also needed regarding the role of paternal depression and how it may compound matters even more.

Sadly, a vast number of depressed mothers are unmarried, got pregnant at a young age, live in social isolation, and were more prone to deliver a baby prematurely.

If there is at least one ray of light in this unfortunate turn of events, then it is the fact that the research also shows that there is a great degree of resilience in some children. For reasons that are not fully understood, more than 50 per cent of the children studied did not seem to be impacted negatively when exposed to maternal depression. This is encouraging and serves as a reminder that adverse outcomes are in no way inevitable.

If the diagnosis of maternal depression is often not made promptly and if access to treatment remains a major obstacle, then a better understanding of the factors that buffer some children against adverse outcomes must be further researched.

For more information on the results and details of the Winnipeg/Stanford study visit

Dr. Nieman is a community-based pediatrician with 33 years of experience. He is the author of Moving Forward: The Power of Consistent Choices in Everyday Life.


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