Cinical depression and anxiety during pregnancy results in smaller babies who are more likely to die in infancy, a new study has found.
The study, which focused on women living in rural Bangladesh, provides the first finding of its kind in a non-Western population.
The research indicated 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.
Infant birth weight of 81 percent babies born at term was measured within 48 hours of delivery and baseline data provided socio-economic, anthropometric, reproductive, obstetric and social support information.
"18 percent 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," said lead author Hashima-E- Nasreen.
The research has been published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.