Seasonal variation in postnatal depression

J Affect Disord. 2004 Feb;78(2):111-8. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(02)00239-2.


Background: We evaluated the occurrence of postnatal depression in general and during different seasons as part of a larger longitudinal mother-child follow-up study.

Method: One hundred and eighty-five mothers, from the maternity wards of University Hospital of Oulu, Finland, completed a self-rating depression scale, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) twice: first at hospital 2-7 days after delivery and the second time at home 4 months after the delivery. Different psychosocial variables were mapped out to avoid any confounding factors. The year was divided in two separate ways: first, three different time periods were selected by the amount of sunlight: dark (October-January), intermediate (February, March, August, September) and light (April-July), and second, the year was divided by seasons. The results were analysed by the chi(2)-test for multinomials.

Results: Sixteen percent (16.2) of mothers were scored as being depressed using 13 as a cut-off point immediately after the infant was born. Thirteen percent (13.0) were depressed measured 4 months postpartum. There was more mild depression in the autumn (ratio observed/expected 1,62; 95% confidence interval 1.05-2.19) immediately after delivery, using 10 as a cut-off, and less depression in the spring (0.27; 0.00-0.62) measured at home later, using 13 as a cut-off. When using classification by the amount of light there was more depression during the dark time (1.58; 1.05-2.11) immediately postpartum.

Limitations: The group sizes and the amount of sample sizes collected within each month are quite small.

Conclusions: It should be borne in mind that seasonal changes and alterations in the amount of light might influence the occurrence of postnatal depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Seasons*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires