Prevalence and correlates of major depressive episode in pregnant and postpartum women in the United States

J Affect Disord. 2011 Dec;135(1-3):128-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Jul 29.


Background: Little is known about the prevalence and comorbidity of Major Depressive Episode (MDE) during pregnancy in the general population. This study presents nationally representative data on the prevalence, correlates, and psychiatric comorbidities of depression in women during pregnancy and postpartum in the United States.

Method: Data were drawn from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). The NESARC is a survey of 43,093 adults aged 18 years and older residing in households in the United States of whom 14,549 were women 18 to 50 years old with known past-year pregnancy status. Diagnoses of depression and other mood, anxiety, and drug disorders were based on the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule - DSM-IV version.

Results: The overall prevalence of MDE during pregnancy was 12.4%. Among pregnant and postpartum women, depression was associated with younger age, ethnicity other than Latino, being widowed, divorced, separated or never married, traumatic events within the past 12 months and pregnancy complication. Strong associations were found between MDE during pregnancy and postpartum and nearly all 12-month psychiatric disorders. Past-year depressed pregnant and postpartum women were more likely than nondepressed pregnant women to use substances (including alcohol, illicit drugs and cigarettes). Past-year pregnant and postpartum women were significantly less likely to receive past-year treatment for depression than nonpregnant women although not after adjusting for background sociodemographic characteristics.

Conclusions: These results indicate that depression during pregnancy and postpartum is associated with a large range of psychiatric disorders. The high frequency of psychiatric comorbidities, the elevated use of any substances and the high rate of unmet needs should be kept in mind when considering the management of depression during pregnancy and postpartum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

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