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Prenatal Depression Raises Risk of Preterm Birth

The more severe the depressive symptoms, the higher the risk

FRIDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women with depression are more likely to give birth to a preterm baby, and the risk increases with the severity of the depression, according to the results of a study published online Oct. 23 in Human Reproduction.

De-Kun Li, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., conducted a study of 791 women who completed a Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale questionnaire and who delivered a live birth.

A Depression Scale score of 16 or more almost doubled the risk of premature birth, after controlling for potential confounders, the investigators found. A score of 16-21 raised the odds of preterm birth by 1.6 times, while a score of 22 or above, the definition of severe depression, raised the odds by 2.2 times, the data showed. Low educational level, history of fertility problems, stress and obesity exacerbated the association, the researchers report.

"A healthy pregnancy requires a healthy placenta, and that placental function is influenced by hormones, which are in turn influenced by the brain," explains Li, in a statement. "This study adds to emerging evidence that depression during early pregnancy may interfere with the neuroendocrine pathways and subsequently placental function. The placenta and neuroendocrine functions play an important role in maintaining the health of a pregnancy and determining the onset of labor."

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