Maternal depression affects economic and financial welfare of women in the US, study shows

on 18 November 2021

A study by researchers at Rutgers School of Public Health has shown that women who suffer from maternal depression following childbirth are economically and financially affected up to 15 years later.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, analysed the data of 4,362 US women in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study who gave birth between 1998 and 2000.

Researchers continued to analyse these women until 2017, with interviews and medical records being analysed at three, five, nine and 15 years following childbirth.

The results showed that 12% of women had a major depressive episode one year postpartum. Women who experienced maternal depression in the year after giving birth were likely to have been born in the United States, unmarried, have a lower household income and received public assistance within a year before childbirth.

Researchers found that maternal depression during the first year following childbirth has a strong association with economic hardship such as covering medical costs, utility shut-offs, unable to buy food and pay bills, and housing insecurity up to 15 years later.

Instructor and author of the study from the Rutgers School of Public Health, Slawa Rokicki, said: “These findings highlight the importance of screening and expanding access to mental health support services for low-income pregnant women and postpartum women.

“Despite having higher rates of maternal depression, racial and ethnic minority groups have the lowest rates of accessing care. Comprehensive interventions are needed to address the barriers to screening and treatment and reduce health inequalities.

“Our results imply that programs [sic] designed to lower the prevalence of maternal depression should be viewed not only as interventions that promote population health but also as interventions that increase economic well-being.”

Perinatal depression affects around 13% of childbearing women in the US.

The study ‘Depression in the Postpartum Year and Life Course Economic Trajectories’ can be found here.