Prediction of depression in the postpartum period: a longitudinal follow-up study in high-risk and low-risk women

J Affect Disord. 2003 Nov;77(2):159-66. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(02)00146-5.


Aim: The present study investigates both the antenatal prediction of the occurrence of depression during the first year postpartum and the course of depression in populations at different degrees of risk.

Methods: In a population-based prospective study, 1618 women were screened during mid-pregnancy for risk factors with regard to depression. High-risk and low-risk women were identified, and depression (Research Diagnostic Criteria, RDC) was assessed at 32 weeks gestation and at 3, 6, and 12 months postpartum.

Results: In the high-risk group (n=97), 25% of the women were depressed during the first year postpartum compared to 6% of the low-risk women (n=87). At 3 months postpartum, significantly more high-risk (17%) than low-risk women (1%) were depressed. While prevalence rates decreased after 3 months postpartum in the high-risk group, no significant fluctuations of prevalence rates were found in the low-risk group. Two risk factors were independently predictive of depression during the postpartum period: a personal history of depression, and high depressive symptomatology during mid-pregnancy.

Conclusions: Women at high risk and low risk for depression during the early postpartum period can be detected during pregnancy. High-risk women were only at particular risk during the first 3 months postpartum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors