Pregnant without a Husband—Anxious and Depressed

Psychologists have devoted a good deal of attention to the postpartum depression and “baby blues” found among many new mothers. But researchers have also conducted numerous studies to investigate the predictors of antenatal mental distress—that is, mental distress during pregnancy. And in a systematic review of such studies, scholars at King’s College London find strong evidence that it is mothers without husbands who are particularly exposed to this distress. Understanding of psychological distress among pregnant women matters a good deal to the King’s College scholars, who recognize that pregnancy is a time of “joy and positive expectations but also of stress and difficulties” and that it is a time of “increased vulnerability for the onset or relapse of a mental illness.” Aware that “depression and anxiety are the most common psychiatric disorders during pregnancy,” these scholars emphasize that “maternal depression, anxiety and stress during pregnancy have powerful long-term effects on both mother and baby,” perhaps by causing “a decrease in blood flow to the foetus . . . [and] an increased exposure of the foetus to cortisol [a biochemical triggered by stress].” These scholars further remark that antenatal depression and anxiety may make pregnant women more vulnerable to “inadequate nutrition and weight gain, increased alcohol consumption, substance abuse and smoking” and less conscientious in receiving prenatal medical care. Clearly, medical professionals need to understand when and why pregnant women suffer from psychological problems. However, the King’s College scholars begin their survey of the relevant professional literature admitting that “we still do not know why some women are more ‘at risk’ of developing depression or anxiety symptoms while others remain resilient.” To illuminate the circumstances in which expectant mothers are at risk of these psychological problems, the King’s College scholars exami
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