Background: Maternal depression in the pre- and postpartum period may set women on a course of chronic depressive symptoms. Little is known about predictors of persistently elevated depressive symptoms in mothers from pregnancy onwards. The aims of this study are to determine maternal depression trajectories from pregnancy to the child's fifth birthday and identify associated risk factors.
Method: Mothers (N = 1807) from the EDEN mother-child birth cohort study based in France (2003-2011) were followed from 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to their child's fifth birthday. Maternal depression trajectories were determined with a semi-parametric group-based modelling strategy. Sociodemographic, psychosocial and psychiatric predictors were explored for their association with trajectory class membership.
Results: Five trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression from pregnancy onwards were identified: no symptoms (60.2%); persistent intermediate-level depressive symptoms (25.2%); persistent high depressive symptoms (5.0%); high symptoms in pregnancy only (4.7%); high symptoms in the child's preschool period only (4.9%). Socio-demographic predictors associated with persistent depression were non-French origin; psychosocial predictors were childhood adversities, life events during pregnancy and work overinvestment; psychiatric predictors were previous mental health problems, psychological help, and high anxiety during pregnancy.
Conclusions: Persistent depression in mothers of young children is associated to several risk factors present prior to or during pregnancy, notably anxiety. These characteristics precede depression trajectories and offer a possible entry point to enhance mother's mental health and reduce its burden on children.
Keywords: Longitudinal trajectories; maternal depression; risk factors.