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Ann Epidemiol. 2006 Jun;16(6):463-8. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Racial disparities in elevated prenatal depressive symptoms among black and white women in eastern north Carolina.

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Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA.



Black women have an increased risk for preterm birth compared with white women, and prior research indicated that maternal prenatal depressive symptoms are associated with increased risk for preterm outcomes among black women. Race-related differences in prenatal depression could be of etiologic significance in understanding racial disparities in preterm birth. Our study focused on Center for Epidemiologic Studies' Depression Scale (CES-D) scores of pregnant black and white women.


Women were administered the CES-D at the time of their first visit to hospital-based prenatal clinics. Two cutoff scores for the CES-D were used: 16 or higher, which indicates "significant" depressive symptoms, and 23 or higher, which indicates major depressive disorder.


For the sample of 1163 women, mean CES-D scores were significantly higher among black (17.4) than white (13.7) women. Of black women, 49% had CES-D scores higher than 15 compared with 33.5% of white women. Also, 27.5% of black women had scores higher than 22 compared with 16% of white women. After adjustment for maternal age, marital status, and education, odds ratios for race for both CES-D cutoff scores were approximately 1.5.


Results of this study indicate that black women have greater rates of prenatal depression than white women.

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