South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Antenatal and postpartum depression: effects on infant and young child health and feeding practices

S.S. Madlala, S.M. Kassier


Globally, anxiety and depression is the third leading cause of disease burden for women 14 to 44 years of age. The World Health Organisation reports that 15 to 57% of women in developing countries experience symptoms of depression. Maternal mental illness has a negative impact on infant and young child (IYC) growth, development and care, having serious health implications in terms of physical, cognitive and emotional well-being during crucial stages of the life span, such as the first 1000 days and early childhood. Various studies conducted in both developed and developing countries, have shown that maternal depression is associated with negative health outcomes such as: low birth weight, developmental delay, incomplete immunisation schedules, acute or chronic diarrhoea, somatic symptoms, disrupted sleep patterns and child abuse, as well as psychiatric and neurobehavioural disorders. In addition, maternal depression impairs IYC care practices related to breastfeeding, health care, safety and development. It also contributes to inadequate nutrition during pregnancy as well as that of offspring during infancy and childhood, resulting in suboptimal brain development and inadequate growth. Infants with depressed mothers are not only vulnerable to becoming underweight, but also being stunted.

Keywords: antenatal depression, feeding practices, infant height, infant weight, maternal depression, postpartum depression
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