Pregnant Women Today May Be at Higher Risk for Prenatal Depression Than Their Mothers’ Generation

sad pregnant woman
sad pregnant woman
Prenatal depression may be more common today among young pregnant women than among women in their mothers' generation.

Prenatal depression may be more common today among young pregnant women than among women in their mothers’ generation, according to a study recently published in JAMA Network Open.

This longitudinal cohort study included 2390 women who were pregnant between 1990 and 1992, as well as 180 women who were pregnant between 2012 and 2016. Of first-generation mothers (mean age 22.1 years), there were 408 (17%) with high symptoms of depression, indicated by a score of at least 13 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Among second-generation mothers (mean age 22.8 years), there were 45 (25%) with high symptoms of depression. 

The relative risk for depression was 1.51 (95% CI, 1.15 to 1.97) in second- vs first-generation mothers, which included adjustment for age, education, body mass index, parity, and smoking, as well as imputation for data from missing confounding variables. Restricting results to the 66 mother-daughter pairs did not significantly alter these figures, although prenatal depression in mothers did increase the risk in daughters (relative risk, 3.33; 95% CI, 1.65 to 6.67).

Data were collected as part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which paired both mothers with their daughters and mothers with their sons’ pregnant female partners. Both generational groups were between 19 and 24 years of age during their pregnancies and were born in southwest England. The primary outcome of this study was self-reported depressed mood, with possible scores ranging from 0 to 30.

Related Articles

The study researchers conclude that “depressed mood may be higher in young pregnant women today than in their mothers’ generation. Because of the multiple and diverse consequences of prenatal depression, an increase in prevalence has important implications for families, healthcare professionals, and society.”


Pearson RM, Carnegie RE, Cree C, et al. Prevalence of prenatal depression symptoms among 2 generations of pregnant mothers: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children [published online July 13, 2018]. JAMA Netw Open. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0725