Prospective Longitudinal Study of Predictors of Postpartum-Onset Depression in Women With a History of Major Depressive Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry. Sep/Oct 2017;78(8):1110-1116. doi: 10.4088/JCP.15m10427.


Objective: Risk factors for postpartum depression in euthymic pregnant women with histories of major depressive disorder (MDD) were evaluated.

Methods: From April 2003 to March 2009, 343 pregnant women with a history of Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID)-diagnosed major depressive disorder were prospectively assessed from the third trimester into the postpartum period using the SCID mood module and 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). Data from 300 subjects who completed at least 2 mood module assessments (1 within 60 days before and the other within 60 days after delivery) were analyzed for predictive associations between variables assessed in the third trimester and the development of a postpartum depression.

Results: The majority of women were euthymic in pregnancy by SCID criteria. Women with third trimester SCID-diagnosed depression (n = 45) versus euthymia (n = 255) had a significantly higher risk for having depression after delivery (24% vs 11%, P = .013). For pregnant euthymic women, third trimester total HDRS scores significantly predicted postpartum depression (P < .0001); specifically, scores on 3 HDRS items alone-work activities, early insomnia, and suicidality-significantly predicted postpartum depression. Antidepressant use in the third trimester in euthymic women did not confer protection against the onset of postpartum depression.

Conclusions: Among women with a history of MDD who are euthymic in the third trimester, 3 HDRS items-work activities, early insomnia, and suicidality-may be useful as screening items for clinicians working with pregnant women with histories of MDD to identify a group at risk for developing postpartum depression. Additionally, in euthymic women with a history of MDD, antidepressant use in the third trimester may not reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum* / prevention & control
  • Depression, Postpartum* / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / methods
  • Medical History Taking
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antidepressive Agents