Prenatal and postpartum maternal psychological distress and infant development: a systematic review

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2012 Oct;43(5):683-714. doi: 10.1007/s10578-012-0291-4.


Infant development plays a foundational role in optimal child development and health. Some studies have demonstrated an association between maternal psychological distress and infant outcomes, although the main emphasis has been on postpartum depression and infant-maternal attachment. Prevention and early intervention strategies would benefit from an understanding of the influence of both prenatal and postpartum maternal distress on a broader spectrum of infant developmental outcomes. We conducted a systematic review of studies assessing the effect of prenatal and postpartum maternal psychological distress on five aspects of infant development: global; cognitive; behavioral; socio-emotional; and psychomotor. These findings suggest that prenatal distress can have an adverse effect on cognitive, behavioral, and psychomotor development, and that postpartum distress contributes to cognitive and socio-emotional development.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Development*
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Early Medical Intervention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Relations / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Perinatal Care / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological* / therapy