News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


New Research Reveals Unmet Mental Health Support For Pregnant New Zealand Women

The first-ever study to look at anti-depressant use and symptoms of depression in pregnant New Zealand women has identified unmet need for antenatal mental health support.

The research examined anti-depressant use and symptoms of depression in more than 6,000 pregnant women in this country’s largest longitudinal study, Growing Up in New Zealand.

The study, funded by the Better Start National Science Challenge, found that around 3.2% of pregnant women in the study took anti-depressants, but a further 12% experienced symptoms of depression without receiving medication.

Better Start researcher, University of Auckland Quantitative Social Science lecturer, Dr Stephanie D’Souza, says the findings are important because antenatal depression can lead to poorer health outcomes for both mother and baby.

“It’s vital that pregnant women receive adequate support and treatment for depression because we know that pregnant women who have untreated depression are more likely to experience post-partum depression and to have pre-term and low birth weight babies,” she says.

The research examined data from more than 6,000 women participating in the Growing Up in New Zealand study who were pregnant in 2009/2010.

The women were asked about their anti-depressant use in pregnancy, but also completed a standard tool used for screening depression in pregnancy, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

This analysis found:

  • 3.2% of women were taking anti-depressants.
  • 11.8% had symptoms of depression serious enough to warrant prescription medication, but were not taking medication.
  • Pregnant women under the age of 24 were twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms compared with older women (over the age of 35).
  • Pasifika women had the highest rates of untreated depression.
  • European women used anti-depressants at a much higher rate than Māori, Pasifika or Asian women.

Dr D’Souza says pregnancy is a time of increased vulnerability to the onset or recurrence of depression and it’s concerning that so many women may be suffering without treatment.

She says anti-depressants are not the only treatment option for women with depression, but many antidepressants can be used for moderate to severe depression in pregnant women.

“Our results suggest that there is significant untreated serious depression among pregnant women in Aotearoa-New Zealand which suggests that many women may not be receiving adequate mental health support during pregnancy.

“This research highlights the need for health practitioners to screen for depression during antenatal check-ups so that women can secure diagnosis and treatment to enable them to have as healthy a pregnancy and birth experience as possible,” she says.

Dr D’Souza says the fact that Pasifika, Māori and Asian pregnant women are more likely to experience untreated depressive symptoms also points to possible inequities within the health system.

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland