Study: Depression, anxiety linger in some pregnant people despite treatment

Many pregnant people experience lingering depression and anxiety symptoms, despite treatment, according to a new study. Photo by DigitalMarketingAgency/Pixabay
Many pregnant people experience lingering depression and anxiety symptoms, despite treatment, according to a new study. Photo by DigitalMarketingAgency/Pixabay

March 4 (UPI) -- People with depression and anxiety experience lingering symptoms of both disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period, even if they opt to continue drug treatment for them, a study published Friday by the journal Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice found.

In addition, despite treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, a class of drugs commonly used for depression and anxiety, some people affected during and after pregnancy saw their symptoms worsen over time, the researchers said.


Even with treatment through pregnancy, 18% of the study participants had minimal depression symptoms, 50% had mild symptoms and 32% experienced clinically relevant depressive symptoms, meaning they severely impacted their daily lives and ability to perform activities, the data showed.

Symptom severity remained stable throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period in most of the participants, according to the researchers.

Pregnant people taking SSRIs to treat their depression also were more likely to be overweight and experience infertility, migraines, thyroid disorders and asthma, the researchers said.

Pregnant people with a history of eating disorders had more severe and worsening depression, they said.

"We want to make sure we are treating pregnant women well and that depression is controlled," study co-author Dr. Katherine Wisner told UPI in an email.


"Maternal depression is associated with preterm birth, hypertension, Caesarean delivery, low birth weight infants, [neo-natal intensive care] admission and behavioral problems in childhood," said Wisner, a professor of psychiatry and of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Perinatal depression and anxiety affect about 20% of people during pregnancy and after delivery, research suggests.

An estimated 500,000 pregnancies in the United States each year involve people who have or will have psychiatric illness during pregnancy, the American Pregnancy Association estimates.

Depression impacts the health of the newborn, with babies born to depressed parents at increased risk for childhood developmental disorders, according to Wisner.

This study included 88 pregnant people who completed mental health assessments every four weeks from study entry until delivery and at six and 14 weeks postpartum, the researchers said.

Participants were enrolled at urban academic medical centers including Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, University of Texas-Galveston, University of Pittsburgh and a rural health center, the Marshfield Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, according to the researchers.

"The physiological changes and the unique stressors of pregnancy affect symptom levels," Wisner said.

"Women who decide to continue taking SSRI antidepressant medication during pregnancy should be monitored monthly with a depressive symptom and an anxiety symptom measure," she said.


Latest Headlines