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Sad mothers have small babies

Clinical depression and anxiety during pregnancy results in smaller babies that are more likely to die in infancy, according to new research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health. The study, which focused on women living in rural Bangladesh, provides the first finding of its kind in a non-Western population. The research indicates that mental health issues are likely to be a primary contributor to infant mortality and poor child health, above poverty, malnutrition or low socio-economic status.

A collaboration between researchers at the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) assessed the mental health of 720 women in the third trimester of pregnancy from two rural sub-districts of Bangladesh for symptoms of antepartum depression (Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale) and antepartum anxiety (State Trait Anxiety Inventory) and followed them until 6-8 months postpartum.

Infant birth weight of 81% babies born at term was measured within 48 hours of delivery and baseline data provided socio-economic, anthropometric, reproductive, obstetric and social support information. Lead researcher Hashima-E- Nasreen explains, "18% of the women we studied in two rural areas of Bangladesh were diagnosed as having depression and one-quarter as having anxiety during pregnancy, and these women were much more likely to give birth to very small babies. This is a worrying problem, since low birth weight is strongly associated with infant death, which may in turn perpetuate the cycle of mental health problems and underdevelopment".

The study raises awareness of the significance of depression and anxiety leading to poor health in South Asian countries. It suggests that one way to reach the internationally-agreed Millennium Development Goal to reduce child mortality in the developing world would be to invest in mental health support services in this area.

Notes to Editors

1. Low birth weight in offspring of women with depressive and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy: Results from a population based study in Bangladesh
Hashima-E Nasreen, Zarina N Kabir, Yvonne Forsell and Maigun Edhborg
BMC Public Health (in press)
2. BMC Public Health is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health. The journal has a special focus on the social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community. BMC Public Health (ISSN 1471-2458) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Current Contents, FSTA, CABI, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Graeme Baldwin | EurekAlert!
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