It’s well known that some women are affected by postpartum mood disorders brought on by having a baby, but a new study shows that many women experience mental health issues before the baby is even born.
While pregnancy is a happy time for many, not all women experience the “glow” that has come to be expected when expecting. In fact, a study from King’s College in London reveals that one in four women suffer from mental health disorders during pregnancy.
With funding assistance from the National Institute for Health Research (NIH), researchers followed 545 pregnant women over the age of 16 from London. Using a two-question screen asked by midwives, known as the Whooley questions, researchers were able to identify those women who suffered from mental health problems.
Specifically, the women were asked if they have been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless in the last month and if they have been bothered by a lack of interest or pleasure in doing things.
Of the women studied, 11 percent had depression, 15 percent had anxiety, 2 percent had eating disorders, and 2 percent had obsessive-compulsive disorders, with some women having more than one mental health problem.
The study compared the results of the two-question midwife-conducted screen to that of ten-item self-completed questionnaire known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Study author, Professor Louise Howard, said that because women are seen so often during pregnancy, any mental health disorders should be picked up during her antenatal visits.
“Women should be asked, by a non-judgmental and supportive health professional, at all contacts in pregnancy and after birth about their emotional wellbeing,” said Howard.
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can impact a woman’s mental health. It’s important to identify these subtle changes early, as excessive stress during pregnancy can affect the developing fetus.