Risk factors and predictive signs of postpartum depression

J Affect Disord. 1998 Jun;49(3):167-80. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(97)00110-9.


Background: Depressed new mothers usually do not seek and therefore do not receive any psychiatric help.

Methods: In order to assess predictive signs of postpartum depression (PPD), an unselected sample of 570 women were seen by midwives during their pregnancy, using a questionnaire elaborated by ourselves and Derogatis' Hopkins Symptom Checklist. Three months after delivery each new mother was examined again by the same midwife using Cox' Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The medical files were also examined.

Results: Of the new mothers, 58 (10.2%) suffered from PPD. Most significant factors were socio-professional difficulties, multiparity, deleterious life events, depressive mood prior to delivery, early mother-child separation and negative birth experience. The coping abilities of the depressed mother were decreased and her vulnerability to new stress factors increased.

Conclusion: It is possible to detect women at risk for PPD already during pregnancy. We therefore elaborated a very simple, short predictive scale which is in the process of validation.

Limitation: Protective factors still have to be studied.

Clinical relevance: Knowledge of these factors should help all caregivers to recognize, during pregnancy, women at risk for PPD, in order to initiate preventive and/or therapeutic measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Risk Factors