Acculturative stress negatively impacts maternal depressive symptoms in Mexican-American women during pregnancy

J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1;176:35-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.036. Epub 2015 Jan 22.


Background: Mexican-American women exhibit high rates of prenatal maternal depressive symptoms relative to the general population. Though pregnant acculturated Mexican-American women experience cultural stressors such as acculturation, acculturative stress and discrimination that may contribute to elevated depressive symptoms, the contribution of these socio-cultural correlates to depressive symptomology is unknown.

Method: Ninety-eight pregnant women of Mexican descent were recruited from a community hospital clinic during their first trimester. Women completed surveys about acculturation, acculturative stress, perceived discrimination, general perceived stress, and maternal depressive symptoms as well as the potential protective factor of Mexican cultural values.

Results: Women who experienced greater acculturative and perceived stress, but not perceived discrimination or acculturation, reported significantly elevated depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Also, women who experienced greater acculturative stress identified with a mixture of Mexican and American cultural values. However, only the Mexican cultural value of respect was protective against maternal depressive symptoms while adhering to the Anglo value of independence and self-reliance was a risk factor.

Limitations: A limitation in the study is the cross-sectional and descriptive self-report nature of the work, underscoring the need for additional research. Moreover, physiological measures of stress were not analyzed in the current study.

Conclusions: Results point to acculturative stress, above other cultural stressors, as a potential intervention target in culturally competent obstetric care. These findings have implications for maternal mental health treatment during pregnancy, which likely affects maternal-fetal programming and may favorably affect perinatal outcomes in the vulnerable Mexican-American population.

Keywords: Immigrant; Mood; Mother; Perinatal; Pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult