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Objectives: To investigate how depression is recognised in the year after child birth and treatment given in clinical practice. Design: Cohort study based on UK primary care electronic health records. Setting: Primary care. Participants: Women who have given live birth between 2000 and 2013. Outcomes: Prevalence of postnatal depression, depression diagnoses, depressive symptoms, antidepressant and non-pharmacological treatment within a year after birth. Results: Of 206 517 women, 23 623 (11%) had a record of depressive diagnosis or symptoms in the year after delivery and more than one in eight women received antidepressant treatment. Recording and treatment peaked 6–8 weeks after delivery. Initiation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) treatment has become earlier in the more recent years. Thus, the initiation rate of SSRI treatment per 100 pregnancies (95% CI) at 8 weeks were 2.6 (2.5 to 2.8) in 2000–2004, increasing to 3.0 (2.9 to 3.1) in 2005–2009 and 3.8 (3.6 to 3.9) in 2010–2013. The overall rate of initiation of SSRI within the year after delivery, however, has not changed noticeably. A third of the women had at least one record suggestive of depression at any time prior to delivery and of these one in four received SSRI treatment in the year after delivery. Younger women were most likely to have records of depression and depressive symptoms. (Relative risk for postnatal depression: age 15–19: 1.92 (1.76 to 2.10), age 20–24: 1.49 (1.39 to 1.59) versus age 30–34). The risk of depression, postnatal depression and depressive symptoms increased with increasing social deprivation. Conclusions: More than 1 in 10 women had electronic health records indicating depression diagnoses or depressive symptoms within a year after delivery and more than one in eight women received antidepressant treatment in this period. Women aged below 30 and from the most deprived areas were at highest risk of depression and most likely to receive antidepressant treatment.

More information Original publication




Journal article


BMJ - Mental Health Research





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Project number: 325. PI: Irene Petersen