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Can J Psychiatry. 2010 Apr;55(4):222-8.

Antenatal depression and anxiety affect postpartum parenting stress: a longitudinal, prospective study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia.



Postpartum depression has been associated with parenting stress, impacting attachment and child development. However, the relation between antenatal depression or anxiety and postpartum parenting stress has not been investigated. We studied the effect of antenatal depression and anxiety and treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants [ADs]) on postpartum parenting stress.


Ninety-four pregnant women (part of a larger study examining prenatal AD exposure on infants) were prospectively monitored for depression and anxiety during the third trimester and 3- and 6-months postpartum using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale. Parenting stress was assessed using the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form at 3- and 6-months postpartum.


Both antenatal third trimester depression and anxiety were significant predictors of 3- and 6-month postpartum parenting stress, after controlling for maternal age, number of children, and exposure to prenatal ADs (all Ps < 0.001). Third trimester depression accounted for 13% to 22% of the variance in postpartum stress at 3 and 6 months. Prenatal AD use was not a significant predictor in any of the models (all Ps > 0.2). Twenty of 41 mothers on ADs achieved remission (HDRS = 7) in pregnancy and had average parenting stress scores of about 1 standard deviation lower than those who did not at 3- and 6-months postpartum (t = 3.32, df = 32, P = 0.002 and t = 2.52, df = 32, P = 0.02, respectively).


Our findings indicate that antenatal depression and anxiety directly impact postpartum parenting stress, regardless of antenatal AD treatment. Ongoing maternal mental illness in pregnancy is an important predictor of postpartum parenting stress. Early recognition and treatment to remission is key.

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