Mass General Hospital

Harvard Medical School

Credit: Pregnant Woman from Wikimedia Commons

Risk of Postpartum Depression in Immigrant Women

Previous studies have identified immigrant women as being at increased risk for postpartum depression.  While we have considerable data on the prevalence and predictors of postpartum depression (PPD), most of these data do not specifically identify risk factors for PPD in this population.

Canadian researchers analyzed data from a prospective cohort study, The Ontario Mother and Infant Study 3, which included 519 immigrant women.  Participants completed a written questionnaire in the hospital, followed by structured telephone interviews at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after hospital discharge. PPD was identified using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) with two thresholds for depression (>12 and >9).

The prevalence of PPD among immigrants was similar to the prevalence observed in the general population. Rates of PPD at all time points were 8%–10% when an EPDS score of >12 was used as the cutoff.  When the EPDS score cutoff of >9 was used, depressive symptoms were about twice as common in immigrant women than in non-immigrants.  (According to a recent study, EPDS scores of between 7 and 13 identify women with mild depression.)

Consistent with previous studies in other populations, lack of social supports was strongly associated with PPD. Living in Canada for <2 years, poor perception of physical health, and lower mental health functioning were other important predictors of PPD. Living in communities with a high prevalence of immigrants and low income also were other factors associated with PPD.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD


Ganann R, Sword W, Thabane L, Newbold B, Black M.  Predictors of Postpartum Depression Among Immigrant Women in the Year After Childbirth.  J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Feb;25(2):155-65.


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