A study was carried out on 14,500 pregnant women who were due to give birth between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992. In order to assess signs of depression in the women, psychiatrists at Bristol University gave them a questionnaire called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. This test was developed in 1987 to detect signs of depression either during or after pregnancy. It focuses particularly on the emotional and psychological repercussions of depression.
The test was given to each participant in the study at 18 weeks and 32 weeks. They completed the test again 8 weeks and 8 months after their babies were born. A score of 13 or higher indicated signs of depression.
The results showed that there were at least as many women who were depressed at the end of their pregnancy as during the months following the birth. Even more surprising was the psychological condition of some of the expectant mothers improved after the birth. Of the 9028 participants who completed all four questionnaires, the percentage of women suffering from symptoms of depression was as follows at different points during the study:
11.8% at 18 weeks
13.5% at 32 weeks
9.1% 8 weeks after the birth
8.1% 8 months after the birth
Only 1.6% of the women (a total of 146) showed signs of depression during all four stages of the study.
A serious problem
These findings contradict the popular view that women are at greater risk of postnatal depression. The strain some women feel when they are pregnant can cause short-lived depression. Pregnancy isn’t always as blissfully happy as we think.
Since the study, there has been little further research into depression during pregnancy. This is worrying, because many studies have revealed the negative effects depression can have on both mother and baby. Women who are depressed tend not to monitor their pregnancies as closely, often have premature and underweight babies.
More comprehensive research must be carried out to better understand the causes of depression in pregnant women. Further research would also enable doctors to explore the idea of screening tests, which would allow more pregnant women to seek treatment for depression earlier.
Dr Corinne Tutin
from Yahoo Lifestyle