PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, September 30, 2019

Hannah Kuper, Maria Elisabeth Lopes Moreira, Thália Velho Barreto de Araújo, Sandra Valongueiro, Silke Fernandes, Marcia Pinto, Tereza Maciel Lyra


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in pregnancy can cause microcephaly and a wide spectrum of severe adverse outcomes, collectively called “Congenital Zika Syndrome” (CZS). Parenting a child with disabilities can have adverse mental health impacts, but these associations have not been fully explored in the context of CZS in Brazil.

Methodology/Principal findings
A cross-sectional study was undertaken in Recife and Rio de Janeiro, including 163 caregivers of a child with CZS (cases) and 324 caregivers with an unaffected child (comparison subjects), identified from existing studies. The primary caregiver, almost always the mother, was interviewed using a structured questionnaire to collect information on: depression, anxiety, and stress (Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale—DASS-21), social support (Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Scale—MOS-SSS), and socio-demographic data. Data was collected May 2017-January 2018. Ethical standards were adhered to throughout the research.

A high proportion of mothers reported experiencing severe or extremely severe levels of depression (18%), anxiety (27%) and stress (36%). Mothers of children with CZS were more likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety andstress, compared to mothers of comparison children. These associations of were more apparent among mothers living in Rio de Janeiro. These differences were reduced after adjustment for socio-economic status and social support. Among mothers of children with CZS, low social support was linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, but there was no association with socio-economic status.

Depression, anxiety and stress were very common among mothers of young children in Brazil, regardless of whether they were parenting a child with disabilities. Mothers of children with CZS may be particularly vulnerable to poor mental health, and this association may be buffered through better social support

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