Study: 1 in 4 Women Suffer from Mental Health Disorder in Pregnancy

Many women experience mental health issues before the baby is even born.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.

Related: New Study Finds Antidepressants During Pregnancy May Cause 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.

Related: Depression May Be the Biggest Risk Factor for Gestational Diabetes 

“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.

2 thoughts on “Study: 1 in 4 Women Suffer from Mental Health Disorder in Pregnancy”

  1. Being pregnant brings a host of hormones! Calling this a mental health disorder does NOT serve women! Shame on you for promoting this crap!

    1. Sandra, I have to disagree. It would appear that you are objecting to a label [of mental health disorder] because you see the label as a judgment of shame rather than a tool. [BTW– I actually am adverse to labels most of the time and in this case I can see both benefits and challenges with using the label.]

      If only 1 in 4 pregnant women is experiencing these issues, that is an indication that 3 out of 4 are experiencing a similar influx of hormones without the related issues that can be debilitating to the mother and negatively impact the pregnancy, family, and growing baby. So blaming hormones [a] externalizes the problem and [b] can prevent a person from getting the help she needs by dismissing her experience as not a problem.

      Let’s take it to a context that does not have a similar alarm factor associated with the label. Imagine that we are discussing an ailment of a physical nature. However, only 1 in 4 actually falls ill. For some reason, the other 3/4 have immune systems that are able to manage the virus. Does this bring shame on the 1/4? Does this negate the value of labeling the illness as a type of Influenza? Should it prevent the person from seeking health care?

      If a label helps a person to understand the nature of the issue and gain appropriate help, it has served a good cause. It is only when the person interprets the label outside of those boundaries that the label becomes problematic.

      It’s essentially half intention, half reception.

      In my experience, in fact the more consequential issue arises when a person experiences an issue as a problem and is dismissed.

      I am certain that you have a big heart which gives rise to your defense of pregnant women who are experiencing these issues. I hope that also gives rise to your consideration that just because something is typical does not make it healthy. That issue plagues our health care system and prevents many people from achieving full health and the full lives that go with it.


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