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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015 May;24(5):384-93. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2014.4857. Epub 2015 Mar 9.

Stressful events during pregnancy and postpartum depressive symptoms.

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1 Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health , Boston, Massachusetts.



Understanding the influence of perinatal stressors on the prevalence of postpartum depressive symptoms (PDS) and help-seeking for PDS using surveillance data can inform service provision and improve health outcomes.


We used Massachusetts Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (MA-PRAMS) 2007-2010 data to evaluate associations between selected perinatal stressors and PDS and with subsequent help-seeking behaviors. We categorized 12 stressors into 4 groups: partner, traumatic, financial, and emotional. We defined PDS as reporting "always" or "often" to any depressive symptoms on PRAMS Phase 5, or to a composite score ≥10 on PRAMS Phase 6 depression questions, compared with women reporting "sometimes," "rarely" or "never" to all depressive symptoms. The median response time to MA-PRAMS survey was 3.2 months (interquartile range, 2.9-4.0 months). We estimated prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) using modified Poisson regression models, controlling for socioeconomic status indicators, pregnancy intention and prior mental health visits.


Among 5,395 participants, 58% reported ≥1 stressor (partner=26%, traumatic=16%, financial=29% and emotional=30%). Reporting of ≥1 stressor was associated with increased prevalence of PDS (PR=1.68, 95% CI: 1.42-1.98). The strongest association was observed for partner stress (PR=1.90, 95% CI: 1.51-2.38). Thirty-eight percent of mothers with PDS sought help. Mothers with partner-related stressors were less likely to seek help, compared with mothers with other grouped stressors.


Women who reported perinatal common stressors-particularly partner-related stressors-had an increased prevalence of PDS. These data suggest that women should be routinely screened during pregnancy for a range of stressors and encouraged to seek help for PDS.

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