Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVES: This study sought to evaluate the prevalence, timing of onset and duration of symptoms of depression in the perinatal period (PND) in women with depression, according to whether they had a history of depression prior to their first perinatal period. We further sought to identify biopsychosocial correlates of perinatal symptoms in women with depression. DESIGN AND SETTING: The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is an online case cohort study of the aetiology of depression. For a range of variables, women with depression who report significant perinatal depressive symptoms were compared with women with lifetime depression who did not experience perinatal symptoms. PARTICIPANTS: In a large sample of parous women with major depressive disorder (n=7182), we identified two subgroups of PND cases with and without prior depression history (n=2261; n=878, respectively). PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was a positive screen for PND on the lifetime version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Descriptive measures reported lifetime prevalence, timing of onset and duration of PND symptoms. There were no secondary outcome measures. RESULTS: The prevalence of PND among parous women was 70%. The majority of women reported at least one perinatal episode with symptoms both antenatally and postnatally. Of women who experienced depression prior to first pregnancy, PND cases were significantly more likely to report more episodes of depression (OR=1.15 per additional depression episode, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.17, p<0.001), non-European ancestry (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0 to 2.1, p=0.03), severe nausea during pregnancy (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.6, p=0.006) and emotional abuse (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.7, p=0.005). CONCLUSIONS: The majority of parous women with lifetime depression in this study experienced PND, associated with more complex, severe depression. Results highlight the importance of perinatal assessments of depressive symptoms, particularly for women with a history of depression or childhood adverse experiences.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





Adult psychiatry, Anxiety disorders, Depression & mood disorders, EPIDEMIOLOGY, Australia, Child, Cohort Studies, Depression, Depression, Postpartum, Depressive Disorder, Major, Female, Humans, Pregnancy, Prevalence, Risk Factors