Perinatal Mental Health

Women vulnerable in pregnancy (e.g., mental health issues, abuse, addiction, been in care) are likely to be more anxious, depressed and produce higher levels of stress-related hormones than women who are not. Evidence is growing that depression, stress and anxiety in pregnant women can:

1. have adverse consequences that permanently affect the baby’s response to stress and
2. disrupt the mother’s ability to be sensitive to her baby.

Both these pathways are likely to harm mother-baby interactions. Since poor mother-baby interactions and maternal mental health strongly predict child maltreatment, prenatal rather than postnatal interventions may be more effective in preventing harm to infants due to their mother’s maladaptive coping in adverse circumstances.