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A review of longitudinal studies on antenatal and postnatal depression


Antenatal depression is a known risk factor for postnatal depression; both are common disorders associated with negative impacts on child development. Few studies have followed up women from pregnancy and through the postnatal period to explore how rates of depression change. This review evaluates recent evidence on depression during pregnancy and after childbirth. A search of Embase, PsychINFO, MEDLINE and Cochrane Reviews was carried out to identify longitudinal studies on antenatal and postnatal depression. Studies that measured depression during pregnancy and up to 1 year after childbirth were evaluated against a set of criteria (e.g. less than 50 % attrition). Of the initial 523 studies identified, 16 studies met the final inclusion criteria with a total of 35,419 women. The average rate of antenatal depression across these studies was 17 and 13 % postnatal depression. The longitudinal nature of the studies revealed that on average 39 % of those who experienced antenatal depression went on to have postnatal depression. Similarly, on average, 47 % of those with postnatal depression had also experienced antenatal depression. On average, almost 7 % of women reported significant depressive symptoms in pregnancy that persisted after childbirth. The review provided evidence that rates of depression tend to be higher during pregnancy than in the first year following childbirth. Furthermore, the longitudinal data show that there is much movement between the groups categorised as depressed or not depressed. There is evidence that postnatal depression is often a continuation of existing antenatal depression.

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  1. The study followed a naturalistic cohort and no intervention was involved.

  2. It was not just at-risk groups or women with high scores during pregnancy that were followed up after childbirth.


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This review was carried out as part of the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study. Growing Up in New Zealand has been funded by the New Zealand (NZ) Ministries of Social Development, Health, Education, Justice and Pacific Island Affairs; the former Ministry of Science Innovation and the former Department of Labour (now both part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment); the former Ministry of Women’s Affairs (now the Ministry for Women); the Department of Corrections; the Families Commission (now known as the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit); Te Puni Kokiri; NZ Police; Sport NZ; the Housing NZ Corporation and the former Mental Health Commission, The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Limited. Other support for the study has been provided by the NZ Health Research Council, Statistics NZ, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The study has been designed and conducted by the Growing Up in New Zealand study team, led by the University of Auckland. The authors acknowledge the contributions of the original study investigators: Susan M.B. Morton, Polly E. Atatoa Carr, Cameron C. Grant, Arier C. Lee, Dinusha K. Bandara, Jatender Mohal, Jennifer M. Kinloch, Johanna M. Schmidt, Mary R. Hedges, Vivienne C. Ivory, Te Kani R. Kingi, Renee Liang, Lana M. Perese, Elizabeth Peterson, Jan E. Pryor, Elaine Reese, Elizabeth M. Robinson, Karen E. Waldie, Clare R. Wall. The views reported in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Growing Up in New Zealand investigators.

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Underwood, L., Waldie, K., D’Souza, S. et al. A review of longitudinal studies on antenatal and postnatal depression. Arch Womens Ment Health 19, 711–720 (2016).

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  • Antenatal depression
  • Postnatal depression
  • Maternal mental health
  • Longitudinal research
  • Cohort studies