While various studies have recently examined the prevalence of depression during pregnancy, few of these studies have examined how being an ethnic minority may influence the risk of antenatal depression.  A new study from Oslo, Norway suggests that certain ethnic minorities may have a higher risk.

This was a population-based, prospective cohort of 749 pregnant women (59% ethnic minorities) attending obstetric clinics in Oslo between 2008 and 2010. Questionnaires covering demographics, health problems and psychosocial factors were collected through interviews. Depression in pregnancy was defined as a score ? 10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 28 weeks of gestation.

The prevalence of antenatal depression was lowest in Western Europeans (8.6%).  The risk was higher in the following ethnic minorities: Middle Easterners 19.5%, South Asians 17.5%, and other groups 11.3%.

Middle Easterners (OR = 2.81; 95% CI (1.29-6.15)) and South Asians (2.72 (1.35-5.48)) had significantly higher risk for depression than other minorities and Western Europeans. After adjusting for socioeconomic status and family structure, the odds ratios were reduced by about 16-18%.

While this exact finding may not be generalizable to other countries, it is interesting in that it is, to our knowledge, the first study to identify ethnic minority as a risk factor for perinatal depression.  The authors speculate that a low level of social integration may mediate the increased risk observed in these ethnic minorities.


Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Shakeel N, Eberhard-Gran M, Sletner L, et al. A prospective cohort study of depression in pregnancy, prevalence and risk factors in a multi-ethnic population..  BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2015 Jan 24;15(1):5.


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