Baby blues linked to troubled teens

Mental health disorders in adolescence could stem from post- natally depressed mothers, according to a new WA-based perinatal charity.

The Centre for Perinatal Excellence - COPE - claims that postnatal depression and anxiety can affect a child's cognitive, behavioural and emotional development.

Founder Nicole Highet, from Cottesloe, said this could lead to mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in the child.

Postnatal depression has also been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioural problems and is believed to double the rate of juvenile misconduct.

"The Government is investing a lot of money in youth mental health, which is understandable, but from what we now know about what women are experiencing in pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life, dealing with these problems in adolescence is often too late," Dr Highet said.

Dr Highet, the former deputy chief executive of beyondblue, said the problems could stem from the transference of cortisol and other stress-linked chemicals across the placenta, which could impair the developing brain of the foetus.

The long-term problems can also be the result of the depressed mother's inability to bond with the baby properly.

Dr Highet said much of the damage caused in the first year of life could be reversed with treatment in the early years. But the problems could become more complex with time if not addressed relatively quickly.

Dr Highet called on the State and Federal governments to boost, or maintain, perinatal funding, which is $85 million over five years.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report showed postnatal depression cost the economy more than $500 million a year.

"We can invest $85 million over five years, or pay $500 million a year for not treating it," she said.

Dr Highet said a key aim of COPE was to remove the stigma attached to postnatal depression, which could hinder treatment.

The West Australian

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