Mothers who are Black or of First Nations ethnicity are at greater risk of experiencing stress and symptoms of depression during pregnancy and their children’s first five years, according to new CHILD Study research.
It was already known that mothers from ethnic minorities are more at risk for psychological distress while pregnant and until their children reach pre-school age, observes CHILD Study Director Dr. Padmaja Subbarao (The Hospital for Sick Children), but “our study showed that this pattern is more nuanced than previously thought.”
Dr. Subbarao and her team analyzed data from more than 3,000 mothers participating in the CHILD Study, who had completed detailed questionnaires in which they self-identified their ethnicity and described their distress levels during pregnancy and their children’s first years.
“Black and First Nations mothers consistently reported the highest stress levels compared to all other ethnicities,” says AllerGen trainee and study first-author Christoffer Dharma (McMaster University). “This difference was significant, even after we controlled for other factors that may affect stress, such as social support, a history of depression, and socioeconomic status.”
Although self-reported depressive symptoms may not always translate to clinical depression, it is important for family, friends and healthcare professionals to be aware of potential problems and to support a mother’s psychological wellbeing both during and after pregnancy, notes Dr. Subbarao.
The research was published online in August 2018 in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.