Mental health during pregnancy
13th Feb 2018
One in four mothers-to-be have mental health issues before they give birth.
Around one in four pregnant mothers included in a study by King’s College London had a mental health disorder when interviewed, but the study wasn’t designed to be representative of all pregnant women in the UK.
“One in four mothers-to-be have mental health issues BEFORE birth”
Mail Online, 4 January 2018
A widely reported study by researchers at King’s College London found that one in four pregnant women (27%) in the study group were diagnosed with a mental health disorder when interviewed. But the study wasn’t designed to be representative of all pregnant women in the UK.
Other studies have found that up to one in five women have a mental health disorder during or just after pregnancy. More broadly, around one in five women in England were found to have had a common mental health disorder in the past week, according to a 2014 study.
How was the study carried out?
The study aimed to see how effective different types of diagnostic tests were at identifying mental health disorders, and how common mental health disorders were, in a group of pregnant women.
The study was based on a sample of nearly 10,000 pregnant women aged 16 or over at “an inner-city maternity service in South-east London”. They were asked questions during their first antenatal appointment about their feelings and mood over the past month and a total of 545 women were selected for a more detailed diagnostic interview.
The study found that around 27% of pregnant women were diagnosed by researchers with a mental health disorder after their interview. This included disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.
The authors’ of the study told us that while it was designed to be representative of the local south-east London maternity population, it wasn’t meant to be representative of the wider population.
The authors also say there were several limitations to the research, including the “relatively low response rate”, the length of time between the first appointment where the women were first questioned and the eventual interview , some missing data—for example where some women declined to answer questions— and the use of only one maternity service in inner-city London.
Other studies have found that up to one in five women have a mental health disorder during or just after pregnancy
Research by the Centre for Mental Health and the London School of Economics found that up to one in five women were affected by a mental health disorder at some point either during pregnancy or in the first year after having their baby. This was looking at a wide range of studies and the findings differed depending on the type of disorder and the stage in the pregnancy. For example perinatal depression affected between 7% and 15% of women during pregnancy, while anxiety affected around 12% to 15%.
Looking at mental health conditions more broadly, a widely cited 2007 survey found that around one in four people in England had experienced some kind of mental health disorder in the previous year. A 2014 study found that around one in six people in England had a common mental health disorder in the week before they were interviewed—looking just at women, this rose to one in five.
We’ve written more about the number of people in the wider population who have mental health disorders here.