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Depression during pregnancy is increasing and stress over work life balance and inflexible working conditions may be to blame, according to a new study.
The study led by Dr Rebecca Pearson at Bristol Medical School and published on the JAMA Network compares the prevalence of depression during pregnancy in today’s young mothers with their mothers’ generation. Both groups were between the ages of 19 and 24. The first generation of pregnancies occurred in 1990 to 1992 and the second in 2012 to 2016. In both generations, women were born in the same geographical area (southwest England).
Of 2,390 pregnant women in the first generation who were included in analysis, 408 (17%) had high depressive symptom scores. Of 180 pregnant women in the second generation who were included in the analysis, 45 (25%) had high depressive symptom scores.
The researchers state: “The results suggest that prenatal depression is on average 51% more common among young mothers in the current generation of the ALSPAC cohort than during their mothers’ generation 25 years ago. This finding persists after adjusting for factors that differ across generations and in analyses restricted to mother-offspring pairs. Given the costs associated with prenatal depression and consequences for the mother, the child, and the wider society, an increase in prevalence is important to service provision and public health regardless of whether the increase is specific to pregnancy. The findings highlight the need for further research to elucidate the reasons behind this intergenerational trend and reduce negative effects.”
They speculate on some possible reasons, including the higher number of mothers working and possible problems with inflexible work arrangements and work pressure. These are both associated with greater depressive symptoms in mothers. Other pressures highlighted include lack of work life balance and financial concerns.