BACKGROUND: While maternal depression has been linked to impaired child growth, the relationship between anxiety and child weight gain is unknown. The study objective was to investigate maternal pre- and post-natal anxiety in relation to child weight gain.
METHODS: Data included 1168 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Child height and weight were measured at the median ages of 25 and 31 months postnatally and used to calculate body mass index (BMI). Maternal anxiety was measured with the Crown-Crisp Experiential Index at 18 and 32 gestational weeks, and two and 21 months postpartum. Mothers scoring in the top 15% at one or more of the four time points were considered to have anxiety. Maternal depressive symptoms were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale-7 (EPDS-7) at these same time points. Maternal depression was defined as EPDS-7 scores of >10. We used Generalized Estimating Equations to assess whether child BMI trajectories varied by the presence of maternal anxiety. Parallel analyses were conducted for maternal depression.
RESULTS: Among children of mothers who had anxiety at least at one timepoint, the BMI changes associated with a three-month increase in child age increased by 0.06 (95% CI:0.004-0.12) compared to BMI changes in children of mothers without anxiety. Maternal depressive symptoms were not associated with child BMI trajectories.
LIMITATIONS: Maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms were based on maternal self-report.
CONCLUSION: Maternal anxiety around childbirth was associated with modest increases in child BMI gain during the child's second year of life.