A new University of Michigan study published in January’s American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds that stress, mental health history, social support, an unintended pregnancy, affect a woman’s risk of developing depression during pregnancy.  It is experienced by 13.7 per cent of pregnant women and is a serious complication.


Depression is associated with adverse outcomes for mother and child, including premature delivery, sleep disturbances, pre-eclamspia (a dangerous condition occurring during delivery), and can interfere with mother and child bonding. 


Dr. Christie Lancaster and a team of researchers sought to study risk factors that could assist the doctor’s assessment of a patient’s risk for depression during pregnancy.


They evaluated 159 English articles over a 28 year period (1980-2008) in the US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.


The studies evaluated risk factors such as maternal anxiety, life stress, and lack of social support, history of depression, domestic violence, income status, smoking, relationship status, and quality of life.


Many studies have reviewed depression after a child’s birth, but only a few have looked at risk factors during pregnancy.


The researchers felt that studies that concentrate on post-partum depression don’t adequately evaluate depression risks in pregnant women because factors such as pregnancy intention and social support may vary before and after the baby’s arrival. 


Study results showed that maternal anxiety, life stress, prior depression, lack of social support, domestic violence, unintended pregnancy, relationship factors and public insurance have a high correlation with depressive symptoms in pregnant women.


Authors of the study note it is critical to educate physicians in identifying depression in pregnant women. Dr. Lancaster wrote, “We are hoping that providers can use the presence or absence of risk factors such as those identified in our study to enhance their assessments for depression in addition to the information they obtain from the depression screening test.”


Source:   University of Michigan, news release, January 2010