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Antecedent Trauma Exposure and Risk of Depression in the Perinatal Period

J Clin Psychiatry 2013;74(10):e942-e948
10.4088/JCP.13m08364

Objective: To assess the impact of antecedent trauma on the risk of antenatal and postpartum depression in a prospective, longitudinal cohort of pregnant women.

Method: 374 participants (pregnant women aged 20–34 years) were recruited from a hospital-based obstetrics practice serving a predominantly low-income, inner-city population between May 2007 and May 2012. Clinical diagnostic interviews and psychosocial questionnaires were administered at 18 and 32 weeks of gestation and at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Lifetime exposure to and details of traumatic events were recorded. Depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period was diagnosed according to DSM-IV-TR.

Results: 39% of the sample reported at least 1 traumatic event; trauma history (odds ratio [OR] = 2.16; 95% CI, 1.31–3.54) and, particularly, experiencing childhood sexual abuse (OR = 2.47; 95% CI, 1.27–4.78), someone close experiencing violence (OR = 2.19; 95% CI, 1.11–4.32), and the unexpected death or illness of someone close (OR = 2.15; 95% CI, 1.14–4.05) predicted antenatal but not postpartum depression. A clear dose-response effect of trauma on antenatal depression was observed; women who experienced 3 or more traumas had a 4-fold risk (OR = 4.34; 95% CI, 2.16–8.70) of antenatal depression compared to women with no trauma history.

Conclusions: Antecedent trauma significantly increases the risk of antenatal depression, but antenatal depression alone does not appear to predict postpartum depression. Routine screening for trauma exposure and depression is warranted during pregnancy to aid in the early detection and treatment of depression. Future studies need to examine mechanisms that may trigger affective episodes in trauma-exposed women, who may be especially vulnerable to depressive episodes during pregnancy.

J Clin Psychiatry 2013;74(10):e942–e948

Submitted: January 11, 2013; accepted May 3, 2013 (doi:10.4088/JCP.13m08364).

Corresponding author: Emma Robertson-Blackmore, PhD, Box PSYCH 4-9200, University of Rochester Medical Center, 300 Crittenden Blvd, Rochester, NY 14642-8409 (Emma_robertsonblackmore@urmc.rochester.edu).