Maternal depression: an old problem that merits increased recognition by child healthcare practitioners

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2003 Dec;15(6):636-40. doi: 10.1097/00008480-200312000-00016.


Purpose of review: Maternal depression is an old problem that has received heightened public attention in recent years. Although the prevalence of maternal depression remains considerable, healthcare providers continue to underrecognize and undertreat women with this condition. Currently there is increasing political as well as international support for further study to understand depression and its impact on those directly and indirectly involved. This article will review the magnitude, impact, and suggested screening interventions for maternal depression.

Recent findings: Various studies and reviews have documented the prevalence of maternal depression as well as the underrecognition and undertreatment of the problem. The barriers that contribute to this can be related to the individual, the provider, as well as the healthcare delivery system. Depression and even depressive symptoms have been well documented to have deleterious impacts in several domains. These include maternal-child relationships, parenting practices, family functioning, and even children's general development and well-being.

Summary: The care of the mother has not been in the conventional scope of practice for pediatricians. However, child healthcare practitioners play a crucial rule in delivering family-oriented care, including the identification and referral of parents for emotional health problems that adversely affect children and family well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Pediatrics / trends
  • Risk Factors