Race and the Pre-Baby Blues

Minority women face double the risk of prenatal depression

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

(RxWiki News) Many studies have shown that women become depressed before giving birth. However, new research suggests that minority women face an especially high risk of experiencing prenatal depression.

For their study, researchers looked at the relationship between race and prenatal depression (depression before giving birth). They found that African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander women are twice as likely as other women to become depressed before their child is born.

dailyRx Insight: Depression before giving birth is affected by your race.

According to lead author Amelia Gavin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the school of social work at the University of Washington, previous studies might not have used good enough samples of minority women. Many of those studies also used the women's own reports to assess depression.

Instead of relying on self-reporting, Gavin and colleagues used a screening tool to diagnose depression. They looked at nearly 2,000 women with an average age of 31 years.

Finding that race and ethnicity are risk factors for prenatal depression, the authors recommend that health care professionals develop new strategies to reduce the disparities in prenatal depression between black and Asian/Pacific Islander women and others.

Depression impacts an estimated 15 million adults in the United States. Depression is a state of prolonged low mood and aversion to activity. A person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being are affected and may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, or restlessness. The primary treatments for major depression are psychological counseling and medications. Medication therapies include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). SSRIs include: fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro). SNRIs include: duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an NDRI. Atypical antidepressants include trazodone (Desyrel) and mirtazapine (Remeron). Each medication category has different side effects.

Prenatal depression not only affects the mental health of pregnant women, but it also can harm the baby before and after birth. The illness can lead to premature birth, fetal death, and more long-term problems for the baby, including emotional, cognitive, and physical issues.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 23, 2011
Last Updated:
March 23, 2011