Depression during pregnancy and after childbirth may have its roots well before women become pregnant, new research from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute suggests.
It found almost nine in 10 women with perinatal depression had previous similar mental health problems.
Perinatal depression is the collective name for depression which occurs either during pregnancy (known as antenatal depression), or after the birth of a baby (known as postnatal depression).
The study, which was published in The Lancet, assessed 1,000 young women, aged between 14 and 29 years, for mental health problems over a 14- to 20-year period prior to conception. Pregnant women were then assessed in their 32nd week of pregnancy, at eight weeks after the baby was born and at the time of the child’s first birthday.
The study found two thirds of all mothers had a prior history of mental health problems during adolescence.
Lead researcher George Patton said the study is unique as it found a stronger connection between mental health in life prior to getting pregnant, and perinatal depression.
“The study further challenges a view of maternal perinatal depression as a unique problem related to the hormonal changes are pregnancy,” he said.
“For the great majority, perinatal depressive symptoms are best considered as a continuation or recurrence of problems beginning well before pregnancy.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.