Depression during pregnancy: a qualitative exploration into the lived experience of pregnant women with depression and a review of the effects on early child developmental outcomes
Morgan, Caroline Ann
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Introduction Maternal mental health during pregnancy and its effects on offspring outcomes have received increased attention as a public health concern. Recent policies have highlighted the need for better universal perinatal services and to routinely incorporate attention to mental health into antenatal care. This thesis aimed to examine and evaluate current research into the effects of maternal antenatal depression on child psychological, development and developmental psychopathology. A research study was carried out with the aim of understanding the subjective experiences of women with antenatal depression during pregnancy and their transition to motherhood. Method Quantitative studies, exploring the relationship between antenatal depression and early child development were reviewed systematically. The empirical study employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to investigate the experience of antenatal depression in pregnant women. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants who were pregnant and recruited from a perinatal mental health service. Results The small number of papers considered suitable for this review highlights the lack of good quality research in this field. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria for the systematic review, demonstrating mixed results regarding whether antenatal depression effects early child development. Studies were predominantly of poor methodological quality, with inconsistent results and limited by the use of differing antenatal depression and infant development outcomes, making cross study comparisons difficult and weakening any conclusions that could be drawn. In the empirical study one super-ordinate theme, ‘The Lost Self’, and four main themes emerged. Conclusions Findings were inconsistent and of poor quality, and so we cannot say for sure whether antenatal depression itself is associated with adverse outcomes for young children. Further rigorous research on antenatal depression and adverse early child outcomes is needed in order to try and disentangle the effects of both antenatal and postnatal depression on each other and on child development. The findings from the empirical study contribute to an increased understanding of the experiences and challenges faced by women experiencing depression during pregnancy. The study highlights the need for improved awareness of depression during pregnancy to improve understanding of this disorder during the antenatal period.