Are There Special Risks For Developing Depression Before And After Pregnancy?

Dr. Kathy Smith answers the question: 'Pregnancy And Risk Of Depression?'

ByKathy Smith, M.D., Director, Women's Mental Health Program, The University of Arizona College of Medicine
February 27, 2008, 5:36 PM

— -- Question: Are there special risks for developing depression before and after pregnancy?

Answer: Studies have found that 10 to 20 percent of women suffer from depressive symptoms during their pregnancy and the postpartum.

Depression and anxiety disorders are more common in women than in men and female reproductive hormones as well as psychosocial stressors are likely involved. Periods of time of hormonal flux such as premenstrually, during pregnancy or the postpartum or during perimenopause may put women at greater risk for developing depressive symptoms.

Other factors such as a history of a major depressive episode or a family history of depression may also add to this risk.

Additionally, other stressors such as anxiety, coping difficulties, relationship problems, infant medical or sleep problems, an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, lack of social support or other stressful life events can also increase the risk of depression.

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