Published online Dec 8, 2012. doi: 10.5409/wjcp.v1.i4.20
Revised: September 6, 2012
Accepted: September 13, 2012
Published online: December 8, 2012
Prenatal and postnatal period presents the highest prevalence of mental disorders in women’s lives and depression is the most frequent one, affecting approximately one in every five mothers. The aggravating factor here is that during this period psychiatric symptoms affect not only women’s health and well-being but may also interfere in the infant’s intra and extra-uterine development. Although the causes of the relationship between maternal mental disorders and possible risks to a child’s health and development remain unknown, it is suspected that these risks may be related to the use of psychotropic drugs during pregnancy, to substance abuse and the mother’s lifestyle. Moreover, after delivery, maternal mental disorders may also impair the ties of affection (bonding) with the newborn and the maternal capacity of caring in the post-partum period thus increasing the risk for infant infection and malnutrition, impaired child growth that is expressed in low weight and height for age, and even behavioral problems and vulnerability to presenting mental disorders in adulthood. Generally speaking, research on this theme can be divided into the type of mental disorder analyzed: studies that research minor mental disorders during pregnancy such as depression and anxiety find an association between these maternal disorders and obstetric complications such as prematurity and low birth weight, whereas studies that evaluate severe maternal mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have found not only an association with general obstetric complications as well as with congenital malformations and perinatal mortality. Therefore, the success of infant growth care programs also depends on the mother’s mental well being. Such findings have led to the need for new public policies in the field of maternal-infant care geared toward the population of mothers. However, more research is necessary so as to confirm the association between all factors with greater scientific rigor.