Depression during pregnancy rises in a generation

July 18, 2018, University of Bristol
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Anxiety and depressive symptoms during pregnancy have risen by 51 per cent within a generation according to findings from a major study by the University of Bristol published last week [Friday 13 July].

Using unique data from two generations who took part in Bristol's Children of the 90s longitudinal study, researchers examined responses to questions completed by the women during pregnancy to compare levels of more than 20 years apart.

Looking at the responses of 2,390 of the original women who were recruited to the study in the early 1990s and then 180 of their daughter's generation who became pregnant by the age of 24, researchers found that having high depressive symptoms was 51 per cent more common in the current generation. Today 25 per cent of young mums have high depressive symptoms compared to 17 per cent in the 1990s according to the research published by JAMA Network Open.

If their mother was depressed in pregnancy, daughters were also more than three times as likely to be depressed in their pregnancy.

It is the first time that scientists have been able to compare mental symptoms in pregnancy across generations and marks the beginnings of a new wave of health and social policy research that is planned using data from three generations.

This has been made possible by the unique data available in the Children of the 90s study and funding from the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, National Institute for Health Research, European Research Council and US National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Rebecca Pearson, Lecturer in Psychiatric Epidemiology in the Bristol Medical School [PHS], commented: "Thanks to the Children of the 90s data we can now make valuable comparisons between generations on the experienced levels of . While there is a perception that mental health is rising, this may be due to greater awareness and less stigma. These new data give a more accurate picture of what our current population of young pregnant women are facing.

"Interestingly, however, the research shows that depression in today's young women may be driven by rises in feeling overwhelmed and stress rather than feelings of being down and flat.

"Given that depression in pregnancy has substantial impact to both mother and child this is of key importance for health services. Our next steps will use this resource to look at the consequences of maternal depression on the 2nd generation from the Children of the 90s once they are born. Currently we have parents and their babies set up with head camera technology at home to more closely and realistically examine interactions between parents and babies and how these are influenced by ."

Professor Deborah Lawlor, Principal Investigator for the Children of the Children of the 90s study, added: "We are so thankful to the families that have contributed to this unique study for nearly 30 years. This is a truly unique resource, which places Bristol firmly on the worldwide map as leaders of this kind of population health science research. As we continue to recruit more participants into the study we will be able to better understand how health and wellbeing are passed on down the generations and how to improve the health of future generations."

Clare Dolman, Vice Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said: "This is an important piece of research from the University of Bristol on depression in showing that rates of depression have risen within a . It is vital now to go further and look at the possible causes of this increase to help devise interventions to break the intergenerational cycle."

Explore further: Is depression during pregnancy on the rise?

More information: Rebecca M. Pearson et al. Prevalence of Prenatal Depression Symptoms Among 2 Generations of Pregnant Mothers, JAMA Network Open (2018). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0725

Related Stories

Is depression during pregnancy on the rise?

July 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Today's young mothers-to-be may be more likely to develop depression while pregnant than their own mothers were, a new study suggests.

Depression during and after pregnancy may affect children's development

April 19, 2018
Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy, in the first year postpartum, and in early childhood were linked with poorer child neurodevelopment in a recent Depression & Anxiety study.

Tackling bullying could help reduce depression in autistic teens

June 19, 2018
Teenagers with difficulties in social communication, including autism have higher rates of depressive symptoms, especially if they are being bullied.

One in four girls is depressed at age 14, new study reveals

September 20, 2017
New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

For parents of multiples, elevated rates of mental health symptoms but low rates of treatment

May 4, 2018
Parents of twins and other multiple-birth children experience higher than average rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, particularly during the first three months, according to a survey study in the ...

Depression during pregnancy could increase risk of offspring depression in adulthood

June 4, 2015
People born to mothers who are depressed during pregnancy are up to three times more likely to have depression in later life and up to twice as likely to have experienced child maltreatment, primarily at the hands of peers ...

Recommended for you

It's okay when you're not okay: Study re-evaluates resilience in adults

August 16, 2018
Adversity is part of life: Loved ones die. Soldiers deploy to war. Patients receive terminal diagnoses.

Expecting to learn: Language acquisition in toddlers improved by predictable situations

August 16, 2018
The first few years of a child's life are crucial for learning language, and though scientists know the "when," the "how" is still up for debate. The sheer number of words a child hears is important; that number predicts ...

Men and women show surprising differences in seeing motion

August 16, 2018
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on August 16 have found an unexpected difference between men and women. On average, their studies show, men pick up on visual motion significantly faster than women do.

Stress during pregnancy increases risk of mood disorders for female offspring

August 16, 2018
High maternal levels of the stress hormone cortisol during pregnancy increase anxious and depressive-like behaviors in female offspring at the age of 2, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The effect of elevated ...

Letting PTSD patients choose method of treatment improves their health, quality of life: new research

August 16, 2018
Letting people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) choose between treatment methods improves their quality of life and reduces the disorder's symptoms, according to new research from Case Western Reserve University.

Dominant men make decisions faster

August 16, 2018
Hierarchies exist across all human and animal societies, organized by what behavioral scientists refer to as dominance. Dominant individuals tend to climb higher up the hierarchy ladder of their particular society, earning ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.