Certain women are at greater risk for mental health problems during pregnancy

Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368

Mental health problems during pregnancy can have a serious effect not only on the expectant mother but also on her baby, such as low birth weight or prematurity. A new study reveals that certain women may have an increased risk for mental health problems during pregnancy. University of Wisconsin researchers examined data on 3,051 pregnant women from the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) conducted between 1996 and 2006. They used data about the women's physical and mental health to determine the extent of these mental health problems and the potential risk factors.

The researchers found that levels of social support, general health status, and a woman's history of mental health affected the risk for developing mental health problems during pregnancy. Overall, 7.8 percent of the women reported poor mental health while pregnant. A history of mental health issues prior to getting pregnant was strongly associated with poor mental health during pregnancy. In fact, 31 percent of women with poor mental health before pregnancy had poor mental health after getting pregnant. However, only 5 percent of women without any mental health problems before their pregnancy developed such problems while pregnant. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00083).

See "The prevalence and determinants of antepartum mental health problems among women in the USA: A nationally representative population-based study," by Whitney P. Witt, Ph.D., M.P.H., Thomas DeLeire, Ph.D., Erika W. Hagen, Ph.D., and others in the October 2010 Archives of Women's Mental Health 13(5), pp. 425-437.

Current as of April 2011
Internet Citation: Certain women are at greater risk for mental health problems during pregnancy: Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368. April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr11/0411RA28.html