Turns out today's young pregnant women are more depressed than their mothers were 25 years ago, according to a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In fact, rates of depression in pregnant women today are 51 percent more common than they were back in their mothers' time. This study from the U.K. was the first to compare prenatal depression in women across generations.
Mothers from different maternity centers who were pregnant with a due date sometime between 1990 to 1992 were invited to participate in the study. Years later, the children of those women who became pregnant between 2012 and 2016 were asked to join as well. If the mother had a male child, his pregnant partner was the one participating in the study. All participants needed to be in the 19- to 24-year-old age range during the study periods.
The group of women pregnant from 2012 to 2016 had higher scores on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale than their mothers, who were studied back in the early 1990s.
Since a mother’s prenatal depression can be a risk factor for her child to experience direct effects such as behavioral and cognitive issues, as well as increase the chances of experiencing depression herself, these results are important. Six out of 10 women who have depression don’t even receive a diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While not everyone whose mothers had depression will automatically become depressed, it’s something that affected young women entering pregnancy should be aware of. This study also highlights the continual need to screen and properly treat pregnant women, especially those who have other risk factors.
In order to do that, the conversations about not only postpartum depression, but also prenatal depression, need to continue.