The association of unwanted pregnancy and social support with depressive symptoms in pregnancy: evidence from rural Southwestern Ethiopia

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013 Jun 24:13:135. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-13-135.


Background: Depression in pregnancy has adverse health outcomes for mothers and children. The magnitude and risk factors of maternal depression during pregnancy is less known in developing countries. This study examines the association between pregnancy intention, social support and depressive symptoms in pregnancy in Ethiopia.

Methods: Data for this study comes from a baseline survey conducted as part of a community- based cohort study that involved 627 pregnant women from a Demographic Surveillance Site (DSS) in Southwestern Ethiopia. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was used to measure depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Data on depressive symptoms, pregnancy intention, social support and other explanatory variables were gathered using an interviewer-administered structured questionnaire. The association between independent variables and depressive symptom during pregnancy was assessed using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: The prevalence of depressive symptoms during pregnancy was 19.9% (95% CI, 16.8-23.1), using EPDS cut off point of 13 and above. The mean score on the EPDS was 8, ranging from 0 to 25 (SD ±5.4). Women reporting that the pregnancy was unwanted were almost twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms compared with women with a wanted pregnancy. (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 1.96, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.04-3.69) Women who reported moderate (AOR = 0.27; 95% CI 0.14-0.53) and high (AOR = 0.23, 95% CI 0.11-0.47) social support during pregnancy were significantly less likely to report depressive symptoms. Women who experienced household food insecurity and intimate partner physical violence during pregnancy were also more likely to report depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: About one in five pregnant women in the study area reported symptoms of depression. While unwanted pregnancy increases women's risk of depression, increased social support plays a buffering role from depression. Thus, identifying women's pregnancy intention and the extent of social support they receive during antenatal care visits is needed to provide appropriate counseling and improve women's mental health during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethiopia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Occupations
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Rural Population
  • Social Support*
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology
  • Young Adult