How much does low socioeconomic status increase the risk of prenatal and postpartum depressive symptoms in first-time mothers?

Womens Health Issues. 2010 Mar-Apr;20(2):96-104. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2009.11.003. Epub 2010 Feb 4.


Objective: To examine socioeconomic status (SES) as a risk factor for depressive symptoms in late pregnancy and the early postpartum period. A secondary objective was to determine whether SES was a specific risk factor for elevated postpartum depressive symptoms beyond its contribution to prenatal depressive symptoms.

Design: Quantitative, secondary analysis, repeated measures, descriptive design.

Setting: Participants were recruited from paid childbirth classes serving upper middle class women and Medicaid-funded hospitals serving low-income clients in Northern California.

Participants: A sample of 198 first-time mothers was assessed for depressive symptoms in their third trimester of pregnancy and at 1, 2, and 3 months postpartum.

Main outcome measure: Depressive symptoms were measured with the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) Scale.

Results: Low SES was associated with increased depressive symptoms in late pregnancy and at 2 and 3 months, but not at 1 month postpartum. Women with four SES risk factors (low monthly income, less than a college education, unmarried, unemployed) were 11 times more likely than women with no SES risk factors to have clinically elevated depression scores at 3 months postpartum, even after controlling for the level of prenatal depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Although new mothers from all SES strata are at risk for postpartum depression, SES factors including low education, low income, being unmarried, and being unemployed increased the risk of developing postpartum depressive symptoms in this sample.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult