Mothers suffering from post-partum depression in the first year after they give birth may put their child at risk of being shorter than his or her peers, Medical Daily reported.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics analyzed data from more than 6,500 children, as well as information reported by their parents.  Mothers who had reported moderate to severe depression symptoms up to nine months after giving birth had a 40 percent greater chance of having children, who at the age of four, were at or below the 10th percentile for height, Medical Daily said.  This means that they were more likely to be shorter than 90 percent of their classmates.

Children with mothers who reported the same reports depression symptoms were 48 percent more likely to be at or below the 10th percentile.

The study’s researchers do not know why there is an association between mother’s depression and child height; however, they hypothesize that the reason may lie in nutrition.  Those who are depressed typically suffer from loss of appetite, meaning mothers suffering from depression may not be as interested in what others are eating – including their children.

The researchers also theorized that depressed mothers could have trouble sleeping, leading to disruptions in the baby’s sleeping patterns and feeding times.  Another idea revolved around children with depressed mothers being more stressed, and high levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – have been associated with low growth levels.

While all these theories may explain the study’s findings, the researchers noted that they did not ultimately prove that a mother’s depression causes her child’s stunted growth.

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