Clinical depression puts pregnant women at increased risk of delivering prematurely and of giving birth to below-normal weight infants, according to a report published Oct. 4 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Being born too soon and weighing too little at birth can jeopardize the immediate survival and long-term health of babies. Preterm birth and low birth weight are leading causes worldwide of infant and early childhood mortality, respiratory distress, neurological and developmental impairment, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other disabilities.
Depression is common during pregnancy as well as at other times in a woman's life. Between 9 to 23 percent of women experience clinical depression while pregnant.
"In the United States, the likelihood of experiencing premature birth is even greater for depressed pregnant women living in poverty than for depressed pregnant women from middle- to high-socioeconomic backgrounds," said the lead author of the report, Dr. Nancy Grote, University of Washington (UW)research associate professor of social work. Compounding the situation, she added, "Poor women in America are twice as likely to experience depression, compared to other women in this country."
Depressed, pregnant women living in European social democracies fared better than poor pregnant, depressed women in developing nations or in the United States, the Oct. 4 paper reported. European women had lower rates of premature births and low-birth weight infants. Social democracies offer universal health care and tend to have fewer socio-economic disparities in birth outcomes. Living in a developing nation or in poverty in the United States, where adequate prenatal, medical and mental health services may be lacking, could add to the harmful effects of depression during pregnancy on birth outcomes, the Oct. 4 paper suggested.
A multidisciplinary group of researchers at the UW, The Ohio State University, an
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University of Washington