The effects of trauma on perinatal depression: Examining trajectories of depression from pregnancy through 24 months postpartum in an at-risk population

Rebecca Grekin, Rebecca L. Brock, Michael W. O'Hara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Background Research suggests that trauma exposure is associated with perinatal depression; however, little is known about the nature of the relation between trauma history and trajectory of depression, as well as the predictive power of trauma history beyond other risk factors. Additionally, more research is needed in at-risk samples that are likely to experience severe traumatic exposure. Methods Secondary data analysis was conducted using demographic and depression data from the Healthy Start and Empowerment Family Support programs in Des Moines, Iowa. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine trajectories of perinatal depressive symptoms, from pregnancy to 24 months postpartum, and clarify whether trauma exposure, relationship status, and substance use uniquely contribute to trajectories of symptoms over time. Results On average, depressive symptoms decreased from pregnancy to 24 months postpartum; however, trajectories varied across women. Single relationship status, substance use, and trauma history were each predictors of higher depression levels at several points in time across the observed perinatal period. Single relationship status was also associated with decline in depressive symptoms followed by a rebound of symptoms at 22 months postpartum. Limitations These data were not collected for research purposes and thus did not undergo the rigorous data collection strategies typically implemented in an established research study. Conclusions History of trauma, substance use and single relationship status represent unique risk factors for perinatal depression. For single women, depressive symptoms rebound late in the postpartum period. Single women are at greater risk for substance use and traumatic exposure and represent a sample with cumulative risk. Eliciting social support may be an important intervention for women presenting with these risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Aug 15 2017



  • Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • Perinatal Depression
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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