Psychiatric disorders in pregnant and postpartum women in the United States

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;65(7):805-15. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.65.7.805.


Context: Psychiatric disorders and substance use during pregnancy are associated with adverse outcomes for mothers and their offspring. Information about the epidemiology of these conditions in this population is lacking.

Objective: To examine sociodemographic correlates, rates of DSM-IV Axis I psychiatric disorders, substance use, and treatment seeking among past-year pregnant and postpartum women in the United States.

Design: National survey.

Setting: Face-to-face interviews conducted in the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Participants: A total of 43 093 respondents were interviewed, of whom 14 549 were women 18 to 50 years old with known past-year pregnancy status.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of 12-month DSM-IV Axis I psychiatric disorders, substance use, and treatment seeking.

Results: Past-year pregnant and postpartum women had significantly lower rates of alcohol use disorders and any substance use, except illicit drug use, than nonpregnant women. In addition, currently pregnant women had a lower risk of having any mood disorder than nonpregnant women. The only exception was the significantly higher prevalence of major depressive disorder in postpartum than in nonpregnant women. Age, marital status, health status, stressful life events, and history of traumatic experiences were all significantly associated with higher risk of psychiatric disorders in pregnant and postpartum women. Lifetime and past-year treatment-seeking rates for any psychiatric disorder were significantly lower among past-year pregnant than nonpregnant women with psychiatric disorders. Most women with a current psychiatric disorder did not receive any mental health care in the 12 months prior to the survey regardless of pregnancy status.

Conclusions: Pregnancy per se is not associated with increased risk of the most prevalent mental disorders, although the risk of major depressive disorder may be increased during the postpartum period. Groups of pregnant women with particularly high prevalence of psychiatric disorders were identified. Low rates of maternal mental health care underscore the need to improve recognition and delivery of treatment for mental disorders occurring during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology