Preconception origins of perinatal maternal mental health

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2021 Aug;24(4):605-618. doi: 10.1007/s00737-020-01096-y. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Perinatal maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety compromise psychosocial function and influence developmental outcomes in the offspring. The onset of symptoms remains unclear with findings that suggest a preconceptual origin. We addressed this issue with a prospective analysis of anxiety and depressive symptom profiles from preconception through to parturition. Women were recruited into a preconception study to assess (a) variation in symptom levels of depression and anxiety from pre- to post-conception and (b) if the symptom network profiles of depression and anxiety change from pre-conception to post-conception. A within-subject intraclass correlation analyses revealed that symptoms of depression or anxiety in the preconception phase strongly predicted those across pregnancy and into the early postnatal period. The symptom network analysis revealed that the symptom profiles remained largely unchanged from preconception into the second trimester. Our findings suggest that for a significant portion of women, maternal mental health remains stable from preconception into pregnancy. This finding highlights the need for early intervention studies on women's mental health to be targeted during the preconception period and to be extended across the population.

Keywords: Anxiety symptoms; Depressive symptoms; Maternal mental health; Preconception; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies