Social Conflict Predicts Depression During Pregnancy

As reported in Medscape ObGyn & Women’s Health: NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jul 09 -A study published in the July issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Obstet Gynecol 2007;110:134-140) suggests that low social support and high social conflict contribute to depression during pregnancy.

Here is the main thrust of the research:

“Pregnancy is a time of profound physical and emotional change that inherently affects interpersonal relationships,” Dr. Claire Westdahl, of Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues write. “Social interactions and conflict and the individual’s response to them can be crucial triggers for depression.”

“As clinicians, we are comfortable asking about social support and making recommendations to strengthen social support in pregnant women,” Dr. Westdahl said in an interview with Reuters Health. “We know that including the family in pregnancy care increases support for pregnant women,” she explained. “However, we have learned from this research that social conflict predicts prenatal depression more than lack of social support and that social support doesn’t protect pregnant women from prenatal depression.”

The researchers identified responses to four questions that predicted elevated risk for depression, namely:
— Are there people in your life you could turn to if you needed to borrow $10, get a ride to the doctor, or some other small immediate help?
— Do you feel that people in your life let you down by not showing you as much love and concern as you would have liked?
— Have you felt tense from arguing or disagreeing with people in your personal life?
— How often in the last month were you involved in a social interaction that was unpleasant or distressing?

Seventy-six percent of women who had a composite score of at least three high-risk responses reported depressive symptoms.

“This research suggests that we need to improve our assessment of social conflict,” Dr. Westdahl said, “and also develop interventions to help women improve their interpersonal interactions during pregnancy, which may improve the prevalence of prenatal depression.”

Clinicians take note: This is very interesting and should be further incentive to carefully assess clients’ support network.

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