Researchers at George Washington University School of Medicine have determined that maternal depression in the postpartum period can be associated with the development of atopic dermatitis (AD) in childhood and adolescence.
The study, published online ahead of print in Dermatitis (Jan. 21, 2020), looked at the association between maternal depression in the postpartum period, and maternal and paternal depression in later childhood with AD in U.S. children and adolescents.
Dr. Jonthan Silverberg, the study’s lead author and associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, conducted the data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in collaboration with the study’s first author Costner McKenzie, a medical student at Northwestern.
“We know that emotional factors can exacerbate AD flares and influence the course of the disease,” Dr. Silverberg said in a press release. “Previous studies have shown that family environment and other environmental factors can have an impact on AD.”
Researchers analyzed data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study where they discovered that postpartum depression was associated with greater odds of AD developing later in childhood. Additionally, researchers found more persistent AD and increased sleep disturbance in children with AD.
“Our results further suggest that postpartum depression is associated with AD even in older children and adolescents, with more persistent disease and greater sleep disturbance,” Dr. Silverberg said. “This could potentially suggest more severe AD.”
The study’s authors concluded that further research is required to confirm their findings, determine underlying mechanisms and develop appropriate treatment methods.
According to the researchers, pediatricians should consider screening and early intervention for postpartum depression to identify infants at higher risk for AD.
Further, children born to mothers with depression in the postpartum period may warrant increased screenings for AD and atopic disease. Gentle skin care treatments and other strategies to mitigate AD may be suitable for this population.