Clinical risk factors that may be easily identified during routine obstetric examination may help predict depression during pregnancy, according to the results of a review of 57 studies reported in the January 2010 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The three major risk factors that were consistent throughout the studies were as follows:

1. Life Stress: this is a common risk factor for depression by itself, but when combined with the physical and psychological stresses of pregancy, it can really make women susceptible.

2. Poor social support. Morning sickness, physical exhaustion, and the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy are just the beginning. Taking on the responsibility for a new life can seem like a daunting task especially when there is no one else around to help. The feelings of social isolation and loneliness can lead to a major depressive episode in women who have no one to support them through their pregnancy.

3. Domestic Violence. Women who are in abusive relationships feel trapped. They are often afraid to speak up or take action against their abuser for fear of repercussions. This leads to less social support and more stress resulting in depression.  

Solutions: be sure to make time for yourself during the pregnancy. Taking care of your body is taking care of your child. Surround yourself with people who are willing to help in any way they can. Don’t keep quiet about how you are feeling. Open up to people who will walk with you through the process. And finally, if you are in an abusive relationship don’t let fear prevent you from setting boundaries. Tell a friend. Get the authorities involved. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Question: Are these risk factors surprising to you or not? If you have children, what were some of the most helpful acts of kindness people did for you during your pregnancy?