High Blood Pressure Linked to Depression in Pregnancy

Hypertension can lead to depression for pregnant women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For pregnant women, a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy means a higher risk of depression, which is also associated with postpartum depression and difficulty bonding with the baby.

While 70 percent of hypertension during pregnancy is due to the pregnancy itself, if a woman had high blood pressure before pregnancy, there's a higher likelihood she will battle depression.

"Watch for signs of hypertension and depression."

Wayne Katon, M.D., of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington was lead author in a recent study of 2,398 women receiving prenatal care in Seattle.

“Depression can make adherence to interventions, such as diet, exercise and medication, for these conditions low, further putting the mother’s health at risk," Dr. Katon said. “To my knowledge, very few obstetricians do any formal screening for depression during prenatal check-ups."

He added, "They do screen for hypertension. In women with pre-existing hypertension, it is essential to screen for depression at the four month checkup, given the risk of negative birth outcomes and non-adherence to hypertension treatment.”

The women were evaluated for depressive symptoms, as well as pre-existing hypertension and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Around 13 percent of women have some form of hypertension during pregnancy.

Previous research suggested there might be a link between depression and pregnancy-induced hypertension, but this study found no link. Instead, researchers found that women with hypertension before pregnancy were 55 to 65 percent more likely to meet the criteria for significant depressive symptoms or to be taking antidepressants. This creates other risk factors, as well.

While the seven out of ten women who develop hypertension during pregnancy generally return to normal after delivery, five to seven percent of pregnant women develop a life-threatening condition known as preeclampsia, a severe form of gestational hypertension.

For women who have pre-existing high blood pressure, they may also have other health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

The findings were reported at the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health; as well as the November 2011 issue of the journal General Health Psychiatry.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 22, 2011
Last Updated:
November 27, 2011