Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pregnancy and mental health

Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are said to be vulnerable to mental-health problems. Mental-health problems in these women have been linked to poor maternal health, inadequate prenatal care and adverse outcomes for their children including abnormal growth and development, poor behaviour during childhood and adolescence and health problems. A U.S. survey compared 14, 549 women, aged between 18 and 50, who had been pregnant in the past year, to 28,544 other women asking them about mental-health problems, substance use and whether they had sought treatment. The women had significantly lower levels of alcohol use and - apart from major depression - a lower risk of mood disorders than women who had not been pregnant. Age, marital status, health status, stressful life events and a history of traumatic experiences were all significantly associated with a higher risk of psychiatric disorders in pregnant and post-partum women. Women who had been pregnant in the past year were less likely to seek help for psychiatric problems. Groups of women with a particularly high prevalence of psychiatric disorders were identified and these groups included women aged 18-25 living without a partner, widowed, separated, divorced or never married women and women who experienced pregnancy complications and stressful life events.

You can find out more about this research at


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