Childhood trauma increases the risk of depressive episode during the perinatal period

September 20, 2021

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According to the results of a study published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“In a study by Robertson-Blackmore [and colleagues], women with three or more [childhood traumas] reported a quadruple risk of depression during pregnancy compared to women without [childhood trauma], ” Sarah Tebeka, MD, Ph.D., from the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the University of Paris, and colleagues have written. “However, subsequent studies have given conflicting results, with some studies failing to find this association.

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“On the other hand, there is also conflicting data regarding the impact of [childhood trauma] on postpartum depression, “the authors continued,” some studies showing an association between [childhood trauma] and postpartum depression, but others do not show this association.

To shed light on this uncertainty, investigators conducted the current intracohort case-control association study to assess whether childhood trauma correlated with perinatal depression, taking into account different types of trauma. They analyzed the data of 3,252 women who completed the questionnaire on childhood trauma in a maternity hospital between November 2011 and June 2016 as part of a French multicenter prospective cohort study. Participants underwent a retrospective maternity assessment using DSM-5 criteria, as well as assessments of early and late postpartum depression at 2 months and 1 year postpartum, respectively.

A total of 9.2% of participants reported one or more childhood trauma. People with childhood trauma were at increased risk for depression (OR = 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7-2.7), anxiety (OR = 2.3; 95% CI %, 1.7-3) and suicide attempts (OR = 5.4; 95% CI, 3.5 -8.4) compared to women without childhood trauma. In addition, women with childhood trauma suffered from perinatal depression more frequently than others, after researchers adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics and personal history of major depressive episode and took into account the time of onset. Tebeka and colleagues noted a dose effect between the number of types of childhood trauma and the risk of perinatal depression.

“Our findings may lead to special prenatal care for women who were abused or neglected in childhood to better detect and treat perinatal depression,” the researchers wrote. “Indeed, our results support the advantage of a systematic assessment of [childhood traumas] early in pregnancy, which would help identify women at higher risk of developing depression in the perinatal period, enabling appropriate care and reducing the negative impact of depression.


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