Biological and psychosocial predictors of postpartum depression: systematic review and call for integration

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2015:11:99-137. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-101414-020426.


Postpartum depression (PPD) adversely affects the health and well being of many new mothers, their infants, and their families. A comprehensive understanding of biopsychosocial precursors to PPD is needed to solidify the current evidence base for best practices in translation. We conducted a systematic review of research published from 2000 through 2013 on biological and psychosocial factors associated with PPD and postpartum depressive symptoms. Two hundred fourteen publications based on 199 investigations of 151,651 women in the first postpartum year met inclusion criteria. The biological and psychosocial literatures are largely distinct, and few studies provide integrative analyses. The strongest PPD risk predictors among biological processes are hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation, inflammatory processes, and genetic vulnerabilities. Among psychosocial factors, the strongest predictors are severe life events, some forms of chronic strain, relationship quality, and support from partner and mother. Fully integrated biopsychosocial investigations with large samples are needed to advance our knowledge of PPD etiology.

Keywords: biopsychosocial; mental health; postnatal; pregnancy; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / physiopathology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychology
  • Risk Factors