Review Article

Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 1-14

First online:

Untreated prenatal maternal depression and the potential risks to offspring: a review

  • Deana B. DavalosAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Colorado State UniversityDepartment of Psychology, Colorado State University Email author 
  • , Carly A. YadonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Missouri State University
  • , Hope C. TregellasAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Denver at Colorado Health Sciences Center

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Research exploring the effects of prenatal maternal depression on a developing fetus and child is underrepresented in the literature. Empirical papers have typically focused on the effects of postpartum depression (after birth) instead of prepartum depression (before birth). Disparate empirical findings have produced ongoing debate regarding the effects of prenatal depression on a developing fetus and later in infancy and early childhood. Even more controversial is determining the role of antidepressant medication on offspring outcomes and whether research that does not include the proper control population (e.g., unmedicated depressed participants) can adequately address questions about risks and benefits of treatment during pregnancy. The current review systematically summarizes the literature focusing on unmedicated prenatal depression and offspring outcome and concludes that prepartum depression is highly prevalent, is associated with negative outcomes in offspring, and remains understudied.


Prenatal depression Prepartum depression Fetal outcome Maternal depression Unmedicated depression