Previous studies have linked postpartum depression (PPD) to numerous risk factors, including depression during pregnancy, a history of depression prior to pregnancy, as well as marital problems, recent stressful events, and inadequate social supports.

Research conducted at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City now suggests that obesity may place women at increased risk of postpartum depression, as presented in a poster at the annual meeting for the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. In their study of 1282 women who gave birth to singleton infants, the risk of screening positive on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen 8 weeks after delivery increased dramatically for women with a pregnancy body mass index (BMI) greater than 35. They also noted that women at the extremes of body mass index and those with greater weight gain during pregnancy were at increased risk for postpartum depression.


Positive for PPD


Under 18.5


Normal Weight






Class I Obesity



Class II Obesity



Class III Obesity

40 or greater


Increased BMI was a risk factor even after controlling for maternal age, race, number of children, education, and other stressors such as financial stressors and partner-related stressors. It is important to note that there were far fewer women in the class II obesity and class III obesity groups than in the other groups.

This is first study to use a validated screening tool to look at the relationship between maternal BMI and postpartum depression. As more research in this field develops, it is our hope that we will be better able to identify patients at risk for postpartum depression in the future.

Betty Wang, MD

Learn more:

Beck CT. Predictors of Postpartum Depression: an update. Nurs Res 50(5): 275-85, 2001

LaCoursiere DY, Baksh L, Bloebaum L, Barner MW. Maternal body mass index and self-reported postpartum depressive symptoms. Matern Child Health J 2006; 10(4): 385-90.

Poster session by Dr. Yvette LaCoursiere and colleagues at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, as reported in: Wendling, Patrice: Obesity Linked to Postpartum Depression Risk. Clinical Psychiatry News 36 (3): 18-19, 2008.

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