Prevalence and risk factors for postpartum depression among women with preterm and low-birth-weight infants: a systematic review

BJOG. 2010 Apr;117(5):540-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02493.x. Epub 2010 Jan 29.


Background: Although much is known about the risk factors for postpartum depression (PPD), the role of giving birth to a preterm or low-birth-weight infant has not been reviewed systematically.

Objective: To review systematically the prevalence and risk factors for PPD among women with preterm infants.

Search strategy: Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library were searched from their start dates to August 2008 using keywords relevant to depression and prematurity.

Selection criteria: Peer-reviewed articles were eligible for inclusion if a standardised assessment of depression was administered between delivery and 52 weeks postpartum to mothers of preterm infants.

Data collection and analysis: Data on either the prevalence of PPD or mean depression score in the target population and available comparison groups were extracted from the 26 articles included in the review. Risk factors for PPD were also extracted where reported.

Main results: The rates of PPD were as high as 40% in the early postpartum period among women with premature infants. Sustained depression was associated with earlier gestational age, lower birth weight, ongoing infant illness/disability and perceived lack of social support. The main limitation was that most studies failed to consider depression in pregnancy as a confounding variable.

Author's conclusions: Mothers of preterm infants are at higher risk of depression than mothers of term infants in the immediate postpartum period, with continued risk throughout the first postpartum year for mothers of very-low-birth-weight infants. Targeted clinical interventions to identify and prevent PPD in this vulnerable obstetric population are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors