Women who have experienced major depression throughout their lifetime are at greater risk of developing perinatal depression (PND) during pregnancy, a new study has found.
Investigating the perinatal experienced of women with a history of significant depression, PhD candidate Dr Jacqueline Kiewa, from UQ’s Child Health Research Centre, found almost three-quarters had at least one episode of PND.
The alarming finding has prompted UQ researchers to call for screening of perinatal depression (PND) for all women during pregnancy to help prevent the condition from developing.
Of the 7,182 participants who took part in the study, Lifetime prevalence and correlates of perinatal depression in a case-cohort study of depression, 5,058, or 70%, experienced perinatal depression. The research used data from The Australian Genetics of Depression Study, developed by the Queensland Medical Institute (QIMR Berghofer).
Those who experienced perinatal depression – during pregnancy or within six months after giving birth – were more likely to experience severe, complex and frequent depressive episodes, and earlier onset of symptoms.
“These women were more likely to have other psychiatric illness such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and respond less to anti-depressants,” Dr Kiewa said.
The study found they were also more likely to experience severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Dr Kiewa described the findings as concerning.
“In Australia, PND is a leading cause of disease in women who give birth and puts children at risk of developing cognitive and emotional problems,” she said.
Additionally, Dr Kiewa says Australian women of non-European and Indigenous ancestry, and those who have a history of trauma, had a higher risk of PND.
“Some of the characteristics we identified suggest environmental influences as the cause of PND in women with depression, while others point to genetic and biological reasons that may be specific to women and pregnancy, she explained.
“Very few PND studies have considered whether mothers have ADHD or other psychiatric illnesses.
“This is why it’s important that perinatal depression screening be included in all perinatal examinations.”
The research used data from The Australian Genetics of Depression Study, developed by the Queensland Medical Institute (QIMR Berghofer).
Read the full study here