Depressed Women of Low Socioeconomic Status Have High Numbers of Physician Visits in the Year Before Pregnancy: Implications for Care

Jenny Fairthorne, Gillian E. Hanley, Tim F. Oberlander


Background: There is a higher prevalence of depression in women of low socioeconomic status (SES) than other women. Further, previous depression is the best predictor of future depression. Therefore, due to the negative effects of maternal depression on the fetus and subsequent child, particularly in combination with low SES, depression is ideally treated before pregnancy. During the year before pregnancy and by SES, we aimed to assess the odds of a physician visit associated with maternal depression and the mean number of physician visits in women by depressive status.

Methods: We used population-based registry data of 243,933 women with 348,273 singleton live births in British Columbia from 1999 - 2009 and estimated family SES decile using tax-file data. Mixed effects logistic regression, adjusting for maternal age and parity, was used to calculate odds ratios and a two-sided, two-sample test was used to compare proportions. STATA 14 was used for analyses.

Results: Compared to women of middle SES (Decile-6), women of low SES (from Decile-1, Decile-2) had higher odds of more than 20 physician visits whether depressed (aOR = 1.46 (95% CI: (1.15, 1.86); aOR = 1.26 (95% CI: (0.98, 1.61)) or non-depressed (aOR = 1.26 (95% CI: (1.13, 1.41); aOR = 1.24 (95% CI: (1.11, 1.38)) during the year before pregnancy. During pre-pregnancy, depressed women had more than three times the mean number of physician visits than non-depressed women: (8.56 (8.38, 8.73) versus (2.59 (2.57, 2.61), P < 0.00005.

Conclusions: Physicians have ample opportunities to assess women of child-bearing age for depression and to refer for appropriate treatment. It is particularly important that physicians pay extra attention to identify depression in those of lower SES who are likely to become pregnant. Further, identifying depression and providing appropriate referral for treatment in all women who are likely to become pregnant, are already pregnant or are caring for children is important. In such a way, the possible negative effects of prenatal and post-partum depression, along with the interactive effects of low SES on the child, might be reduced.

J Clin Med Res. 2018;10(6):516-522



Socioeconomic status; Maternal; Depression; Preconception; Physician

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