Depression is a psychiatric disorder that affects 1 in 10 U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. If you are a pregnant woman suffering from depression, your chances of an early delivery go up, according to a new study.
Researchers found that of more than 14,000 pregnant women, those who screened positive for possible clinical depression had an increased chance of preterm birth: 14 percent delivered before the 37th week of pregnancy, versus 10 percent of other women.
The findings, reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, do not prove that depression alone directly leads to preterm birth.
The researchers were able to account for some other factors, like a mother’s race and age, and depression was still linked to preterm birth risk.
But there are other factors for which the researchers could not account. For instance, did the moms smoke or drink during pregnancy? Or what was their pre-pregnancy weight? So there could be other explanations.
Even so, the findings seem to back up past studies that have found a link between prenatal depression and preterm birth, said senior researcher Dr. Richard K. Silver, of the NorthShore University HealthSystem and University of Chicago in Illinois.
And with depression being a form of serious stress for moms, a link to preterm birth is also “biologically plausible,” Silver told Reuters Health.
Some studies have found that women who use antidepressants during pregnancy have a higher risk of preterm birth, although that does not prove the medications are to blame. Silver added that it is more likely that medication use is serving as a “proxy” for potential effects of depression itself.
The current findings are based on more than 14,000 women who were screened for prenatal depression between 2003 and 2011. Nine percent screened positive, which meant they were at risk of clinical depression and were referred for a full evaluation.
Overall, those women went on to have a higher rate of preterm birth. Silver’s team then accounted for certain other factors, including the mom’s age, race and history of preterm birth.
Even then, women with depression symptoms were 30 percent more likely than symptom-free women to deliver early.
The findings do not prove cause-and-effect, nor that treating depression will prevent preterm births.
If you are pregnant and have questions about depression, ask your OB/GYN. If you don’t have one yet, check with your family physician or, in Huntsville, call the experts and Tennessee Valley OBGYN.