Conference Coverage

Prenatal sleep problems, depression linked to poorer outcomes


AT ACOG 2023

Poor prenatal sleep may increase the risk of postpartum depression, and prenatal depression may reduce the likelihood of mothers coming to their prenatal appointments, according to research presented at the annual clinical and scientific meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Together, the two studies suggest that commonly overlooked experiences in the prenatal period can have negative effects down the line if clinicians aren’t asking patients about them and addressing the issue.

”I think the national conversation around mental health in general will hopefully carry us forward to better supporting the patients who are coming in with preexisting conditions,” lead author Minnie Jang, a 4th-year medical student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said in an interview.

Most of the attention on mood disorders of pregnancy focus on the postpartum period, but preexisting or new-onset depression during pregnancy deserves more attention, Ms. Jang told attendees. ACOG recommends that clinicians screen all patients at least once during the perinatal period, but that could be anywhere from early pregnancy to the postpartum period. Ms. Jang would like to see recommendations addressing both early pregnancy and the postpartum period.

“I think there’s this framing that postpartum depression is a distinct entity from other mental health conditions whereas it’s really part of a continuum,” Ms. Jang said in an interview.

She retrospectively analyzed the medical records of all pregnant women who completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) during their first or second trimesters between 2002 and 2021 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Among the 718 women who were screened in early pregnancy, 44.6% were Black or African American, 39.7% were white, and 15.7% were of a different race. Nearly all (94%) were not Hispanic/Latino.

Most (59%) were partnered, employed (68%), and had private insurance (58%). Only 7% used tobacco while 11% used alcohol and 6% used illicit drugs.

Twelve percent of the patients scored positive for depression, with a score of at least 10 or an affirmative answer to question 10 regarding self-harm. These women tended to be younger (P = .034), with an median age of 28 at their first visit versus 31 for those who screened negative, and were more likely to be publicly insured (P = .013) and without a partner (P = .005).

Patients who screened positive were more likely to have a history of substance use or history of a previous psychiatric diagnosis (P < .0001 for both). In addition, more patients who screened positive (49%) than those who screened negative (26%) had fetal complications (P < .001).

”There are some interesting subgroups of patients who are screening positive for depressive symptoms early on in pregnancy,” Ms. Jang said. Some come into pregnancy with preexisting mental health conditions while others have situational depressive symptoms, such as the subgroup referred to social work who had diagnosed fetal complications, she said. “Then there’s a whole other group of patients who are developing new symptoms during pregnancy.”

Patients who screened positive tended to start prenatal care later, at a median 12.3 weeks gestational age, than patients who screened negative, at a median 10.7 weeks gestational age (P = .002), the analysis found.

The number of routine prenatal care visits did not significantly differ between those who screened positive and those who screened negative, but patients with positive depression screens were almost half as likely to complete glucose tolerance testing (odds ratio, 0.6) or group B streptococcus testing (OR, 0.56) after adjusting for insurance status, gravidity, and gestational age at the patient’s first visit.

The researchers also identified a significant positive association between higher EPDS scores and the number of labor and delivery triage visits (P = .006). There were no significant differences in the rates of Tdap vaccination or screening for sexually transmitted infections between the two groups.


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