Perinatal depression in Asian women: prevalence, associated factors, and cultural aspects

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Background and Objective: Although perinatal depression is a worldwide problem, most of the studies related to this issue have been conducted in Western countries. This paper summarizes the literature on the prevalence as well as associated factors among Asian countries where the cultural attitudes, customs, and norms are considerably different from those in Western countries.

Methods: We conducted a literature search using MEDLINE (PubMed) from 1968, PsychINFO from 1970, and SCOPUS database from 1982 using keywords “depression”, “antenatal”, “antepartum”, “pregnancy”, “postnatal”, “postpartum”, “perinatal”, “after childbirth” and “Asia”. Only the articles published in English were included.

Results: The overall prevalence of depression during pregnancy and postnatal period are about 20% and 21.8%, respectively. The factors related to perinatal depression can be grouped into the following categories, individual characteristics, husband/marital relationship, pregnancy-related, infant-related, and other psychosocial issues. While there is considerable overlap between Asian and Western countries with respect to risk factors for perinatal depression, premarital pregnancy, conflict with mother in-law, and dissatisfaction with infant’s gender are more specific to Asian cultures.

Conclusions: Studies conducted in Asian countries suggest that the prevalence of perinatal depression is slightly higher than in Western countries. There are several unique culturally related issues that clinicians treating pregnant and postpartum Asian women should be aware as they contribute to an increased risk of depression in these women.

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