Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 204–216

Prevalence of Serious Psychological Distress and Mental Health Treatment in a National Sample of Pregnant and Postpartum Women


  • Cristie Glasheen
    • RTI International
    • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Valerie Hoffman
    • RTI International
  • Lauren Klein Warren
    • RTI International

DOI: 10.1007/s10995-014-1511-2

Cite this article as:
Glasheen, C., Colpe, L., Hoffman, V. et al. Matern Child Health J (2015) 19: 204. doi:10.1007/s10995-014-1511-2


This study examines the prevalence and correlates of past month serious psychological distress (SPD) and past year mental health treatment (MHT) across pregnancy and the postpartum. Data are from the 2008 to 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. Prevalence estimates of SPD as well as MHT among women with SPD were generated for each trimester and across the postpartum period. Correlates of SPD and MHT were examined among pregnant and postpartum women. The prevalence of past month SPD was 6.4 % in first trimester women and 3.9 % in third trimester women. In postpartum women, SPD prevalence ranged from 4.6 % (0–2 months) to 6.9 % (3–5 months). Correlates of SPD among pregnant and postpartum women included being younger; non-Hispanic black; unmarried; making under $20,000 annually; having past month cigarette use; or having a past year alcohol or illicit drug use disorder. Only 38.5 % of pregnant and 49.5 % of postpartum women with past month SPD reported past year MHT. Those who received MHT were more likely to be white; widowed, divorced, or separated; have insurance; and have a history of depression or anxiety than their counterparts with no MHT. Pregnant women with SPD were less likely to report past year MHT than postpartum women, even after adjusting for potential confounders. Over half of pregnant and postpartum women with past month SPD are not receiving MHT. Increased contact with health care professionals during this time may be an opportunity for screening, identification, and referral to MHT.


PregnancyPostpartumPsychological distressMental health treatmentMental health service use

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014