Depression during pregnancy doubles risk of premature delivery
Oct 24, 2008 - 1:33:16 PM

Washington, Oct 23 - Depressed pregnant women face twice the risk of premature delivery than their counterparts with no such symptoms, according to a new study.

Besides the increased risk of premature delivery, the study found that the risk grows with the severity of the depressive symptoms, among pregnant women.

These findings also provide preliminary evidence that social and reproductive risk factors, obesity, and stressful events may aggravate depression-premature delivery link, according to researchers.

'Premature delivery is the leading cause of infant mortality, and yet we don't know what causes it,' said co-author De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland.

'This study adds to emerging evidence that depression during early pregnancy may interfere with the neuroendocrine pathways and subsequently placental function,' Li said.

'The placenta and neuroendocrine functions play an important role in maintaining the health of a pregnancy and determining the onset of labour,' Li explained.

Because the majority of the women in the study did not use anti-depressants, the study provides a clear look at the link between depression and preterm delivery.

The study, among the first to examine depression and premature delivery in a representative and diverse population in the US, looked at 791 pregnant Kaiser Permanente members in San Francisco city and county from October 1996 through October 1998.

Researchers interviewed the women around their 10th week of pregnancy and found that 41 percent of the women reported significant or severe depressive symptoms, according to a Kaiser Permanente press release.

The women with less severe depressive symptoms had a 60 percent higher risk of premature delivery -- defined as delivery at less than 37 completed weeks of gestation -- compared with women without significant depressive symptoms, and the women with severe depressive symptoms had more than twice the risk.

In addition to being the leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity, preterm delivery is also the leading medical expenditure for infants, with estimated annual cost of about $26 billion in the US alone.

The study is published online in the Oxford University Press' journal Human Reproduction.

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