Two-Fold Higher Risk of Postpartum Depression With Family History of Psychiatric Disorders

Mothers with a family history of psychiatric disorders have nearly double the risk of developing postpartum depression compared with mothers without a family history, according to findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Family history of psychiatric disorders is a strong risk factor for postpartum depression, which ideally can be identified through self-report already during pregnancy and enable timely and targeted preventive initiatives,” wrote lead and corresponding author Mette-Marie Zacher Kjeldsen, MSc, of the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University in Denmark, and coauthors.

The systematic review and meta-analysis included 26 studies from 5 continents and spanned a total 100,877 women.

The primary analysis, researchers reported, identified a 2.08 odds ratio for postpartum depression when mothers had a family history of psychiatric disorders, which corresponded to a relative risk of 1.79, assuming a 15% prevalence of postpartum depression in the general population. Results from subgroup, sensitivity, and meta-regression analyses, they added, aligned with the main findings.

Researchers assessed the overall certainty of evidence as moderate.

Although beyond the review’s scope, the authors suspect the reason behind the increased risk of postpartum depression with a family history of psychiatric disorders is rooted in both genetic and environmental factors.

“Growing up in an environment with parents struggling with mental health problems potentially influences the social support received from these parents when going into motherhood,” they wrote. “This particular explanation is supported by umbrella reviews concluding that lack of social support is a significant postpartum depression risk factor.”

—Jolynn Tumolo



Zacher Kjeldsen MM, Bricca A, Liu X, Frokjaer VG, Madsen KB, Munk-Olsen T. Family history of psychiatric disorders as a risk factor for maternal postpartum depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 17, 2022. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.2400