January 24, 2020
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Prenatal depression more common in low-income than middle-income countries

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Women in low-income countries were significantly more likely to experience prenatal depression compared with women in middle-income countries, according to results of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in PLOS One.

“Depression during pregnancy is often believed to be an issue of developed countries,” Abel Fekadu Dadi, MPH, of the Institute of Public Health at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia, said in a press release. “From the study, we found 34% and 22.7% of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries, respectively, had depression symptoms during pregnancy.”

Dadi and colleagues conducted the present study to address a lack of research into depression in pregnancy in many low- and middle-income countries. They noted that the assumption that this form of depression does not immediately cause fatalities led to this research gap.

The researchers included 64 studies on prenatal depression that had data from 44,035 women. They also included nine studies on adverse birth outcomes that had data from 5,540 women. Analysis revealed that prenatal depression was higher in the lower-income countries, which had a pooled prevalence of 34% (95% CI, 33.1-34.9), compared with the middle-income countries, which had a pooled prevalence of 22.7% (95% CI, 20.1-25.2). Prenatal depression increased over the three trimesters, they noted. History of economic difficulties, poor marital relationships, common mental disorders, poor social support, bad obstetric history and exposure to violence were associated with higher rates of prenatal depression. Depressed mothers were more likely to have preterm birth and low birth weight than mothers without depression.

“It is vital for these governments to address women’s mental health issues before and during pregnancy to improve health outcomes for both mothers and babies, and contribute to socio-economic development and Sustainable Development Goals,” Lillian Mwanri, MD, PhD, associate professor at the Flinders College of Medicine and Public Health in Australia, said in the release. – by Joe Gramigna

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.