Risk of adverse perinatal outcomes in infants born to mothers with mental health conditions

Signe Heuckendorff*, Louise F Christensen, Kirsten Fonager, Charlotte Overgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


INTRODUCTION: Maternal mental health conditions have been shown to affect perinatal outcomes negatively. However, knowledge on the impact of different types and severities of maternal mental health conditions is needed. The objective of this study was to determine the association between maternal mental health status and perinatal health outcomes in the infant.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: This register-based cohort study included all live-born infants in Denmark born between 2000 and 2016. Exposed infants were grouped based on whether the mothers received mental health care in primary care settings only (minor conditions) or required specialized psychiatric intervention (moderate-severe conditions) within 12 months before childbirth. Modified Poisson regression analyses were applied to produce adjusted risk ratios (aRRs) for each perinatal outcome of interest. The primary outcomes were neonatal mortality, 5-minute Apgar scores <7 and <4 and newborn hospital admission during the neonatal period. Secondary outcomes included several neonatal morbidities such as respiratory distress syndrome and abstinence syndrome.

RESULTS: A total of 952 071 infants were included in the analysis; 4.0% had mothers with minor mental health conditions and 2.9% had mothers with moderate-severe conditions. The risk of neonatal death in exposed infants was aRR 1.08 (95% CI 0.93-1.27) for minor mental health conditions and aRR 0.93 (95% CI 0.78-1.11) for moderate-severe conditions. Both exposure groups had increased risks of 5-minute Apgar scores <7 (minor: aRR 1.28, 95% CI 1.16-1.41; moderate-severe: aRR 1.49, 95% CI 1.34-1.66); 5-minute Apgar scores <4 (minor: aRR 1.10, 95% CI 0.93-1.30; moderate-severe: aRR 1.18, 95% CI 0.98-1.43), and hospital admission during the neonatal period (minor: aRR 1.20, 95% CI 1.17-1.23; moderate-severe: aRR 1.22, 95% CI 1.19-1.26) along with several neonatal morbidities. An explicit high risk was seen for abstinence syndrome (minor: aRR 10.30, 95% CI 8.40-12.63; moderate-severe: aRR 12.13, 95% CI 10.17-15.67).

CONCLUSIONS: Infants of mothers with moderate-severe and minor mental health conditions were at increased risks of multiple adverse perinatal outcomes. Effective supportive interventions to improve outcomes in both groups are needed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)2019-2028
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NFOG).


  • Apgar score
  • child of impaired parents
  • diseases
  • infant
  • mental health
  • neonatal mortality
  • newborn
  • perinatology


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