Pregnancy is a major milestone in a woman’s life journey. For many women,it is a period of joy and expectation. However, pregnancy may also a period when some may feel vulnerable or insecure. Factors that may contribute to these uneasy feelings include family, social or economic factors. Excessive worries, stress and feelings of inadequacy about one’s ability to handle motherhood may overwhelm some women resulting in  clinical mental disorders.

Depression and anxiety in expecting mothers are mental health issues that require the care of psychiatrists in Singapore which is highly urbanized. What about other parts of the world and in rural communities, do these factors also contribute to depression and anxiety ? In 2015, a descriptive study was conducted in rural India to find out if socio-demographic aspects such as education, age, gestational age, family income, family type, number of children, and the husband’s occupation have a bearing on a pregnant woman’s psychological state.

The sample size of the study comprised 47 women. They were evaluated for clinical disorders using various psychological scales. Their ages ranged from 20-38 years. Most of the participants were in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters and nearly all surveyed have already had a child. All the participants’ have a minimum monthly income which was not less than Rs. 8,000 ( approximately SGD$160).  The Hopkins Anxiety Checklist, and the abridged edition of CES-D scale were used for measuring depressive and anxiety levels. The participants were mostly rural residents, resided in joint families, and had little formal education. They were surveyed and provided information about their age, educational and family background, income, family type (nuclear or joint), family occupation.

The study showed association between age, earnings of the participant, stage of pregnancy and educational levels with the levels of anxiety and depression in the women. Regression analyses showed that the gestational period, educational level and maternal age all have a significant effect on a pregnant woman’s mental state. Women with higher education performed better in coping with pregnancy compared to uneducated women. Women under 30 were more prone to higher scores in anxiety and depression. Women earlier in their gestational term were more prone to being depressed compared to women who were nearing the end of their pregnancies.

Although this study showed association between socio-demographic factors, maternal age, family income and education level and clinical levels of anxiety and depression, the findings are to be understood bearing in mind the following limitations. The sample size of the study was small, confounding factors in the statistic collected and sample, assessor bias need to be adequately addressed. The study methodology was a descriptive one and the study results were largely based on information provided by the respondents. Nevertheless, it was a study that was useful in understanding the route to good mental health at all stages of life journey.

Written by Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: N. Bhat, R. Hassan, M. Shafiq, S. Sheikh. A major predictor of anxiety and depression among pregnant women. Delhi Psychiatry Journal, Vol 18 No 1. April 2015