Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth


Department of Anthropology


Background: Perinatal (antenatal and postpartum) depression impacts approximately 12% of mothers. Perinatal depression can impact everyday functioning for mothers, and the relationship with, and development of, their children. The purpose of this study was to investigate depression trajectories from the antenatal period through 54-months postpartum and associations with child body mass index at 54-months postpartum. Methods: This study applied latent growth modeling to the Growing Up in New Zealand study, which is a longitudinal pregnancy cohort study that provides nationally representative-level data, to investigate associations between depression at three time points (antenatal, 9-months postpartum, 54-months postpartum) and child body mass index at 54-months (n=4897). Results: The average slope of depression for this sample is low and decreases over time. When child BMI was added to the model as an outcome variable, both antenatal depression (B=.25, p<.01), and the rate of change of depression across the perinatal and postpartum periods (B=.09, p<.01) were associated with child BMI at 54-months postpartum. After controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, antenatal depression, but not the slope of depression, remained significantly associated with child BMI (B=.05, p<.05). When controlling for maternal pre-pregnancy BMI the effect of antenatal depression on child BMI at 54-months was entirely attenuated (χ2 (9) = 39.60, p <.05, SRMR = 0.01, CFI =.99, RMSEA = 0.03, BIC=53213). Conclusions: Our findings align with the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease theory and imply that both the physical and mental health of mothers during pregnancy may be important indicators of child growth and development outcomes. Early intervention directed towards women who have even mild depression scores during pregnancy may promote healthy child development outcomes. Additionally, given the heterogeneity of depressive symptoms over time seen in this study, multiple assessment periods across the postpartum period may be valuable to adequately address and support maternal mental health.



Original Citation

Farewell, C.V., Donohoe, R., Thayer, Z. et al. Maternal depression trajectories and child BMI in a multi-ethnic sample: a latent growth modeling analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 21, 827 (2021).