National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH | Study Links Depressive Mood, Racial Disparities in Preterm Birth

PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH | Study Links Depressive Mood, Racial Disparities in Preterm Birth
[June 26, 2009]

Women who have depression symptoms prior to becoming pregnant are at an increased risk for having preterm births, with the risk twice as high for black women as for white women, according to a study in the Journal of Women's Health, Reuters reports. For the study, Amelia Gavin of the University of Washington and colleagues examined the links between race, preterm birth and pre-pregnancy depressive mood among 555 women. The study used data collected from 1990-1996 as part of a larger, long-term investigation of heart disease risk.

Researchers determined that 18.1% of the 249 black women in the study gave birth prior to 37 weeks' gestation, compared with 8.5% of the 306 white women in the study. The study also found that 9.4% of black women had pre-pregnancy symptoms of depressive mood, compared with 7.2% of white women. After researchers accounted for other factors associated with preterm birth, such as body weight and sociodemographic characteristics, black women's risk remained more than twice that of white women.

Gavin said, "The black-white disparity in preterm birth may be in part a consequence of different exposures to depressive mood prior to pregnancy." She said, "Reproductive outcomes must be viewed in light of women's health over the entire life-course, as well as during pregnancy," adding that the study's results suggest that "the experience of cumulative health disadvantages or 'weathering'" might play a role in increased risk for preterm birth (Hendry, Reuters, 6/25).