The role of positive maternal mental health during pregnancy in child mental health remains largely unknown. We investigated whether positive maternal mental health during pregnancy is associated with lower hazards of mental and behavioral disorders in children and mitigates the adverse effects of negative maternal mental health.
Among 3,378 mother–child dyads of the Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction study, mothers reported their positive mental health biweekly throughout pregnancy with the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory Curiosity scale, and a visual analogue scale for social support, and negative mental health with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. We extracted data on their mental and behavioral disorder diagnoses from a nationwide medical register. This register provided data on their children’s mental and behavioral disorder diagnoses as well, from birth until 8.4−12.8 (Median = 10.2, Interquartile Range 9.7−10.8) years of age.
A positive maternal mental health composite score during pregnancy was associated with a lower hazard of any mental and behavioral disorder among all children [Hazard Ratio (HR) = 0.79, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.71 − 0.87] and among children of mothers experiencing clinically relevant depressive symptoms during pregnancy [HR = 0.80, 95%CI 0.64 − 1.00] and/or mental and behavioral disorders before or during pregnancy [HR = 0.69, 95%CI 0.55−0.86]. These associations were independent of covariates.
Children whose mothers had more positive mental health during pregnancy were less likely to develop mental and behavioral disorders. Protective effects were seen also among children of mothers facing mental health adversities before or during pregnancy.