Pregnant? Social Support Lowers Risk of Depression

Pregnant women benefit from social support. Image by Ed Yourdon.

Pregnant women benefit from social support – and so do their babies. Image by Ed Yourdon.

Pregnant women have a lot of stressors. Everything from their own rapidly changing body, the health of the child in their womb, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, and financial concerns weigh heavily on a woman who is having a baby. Research shows that a supportive family can ease the load, and reduce levels of stress hormones during pregnancy, and as a result, women with family support are less likely to experience post-partum depression.

Social Support and Depression: The Research

Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, conducts research at UCLA’s Stress Processes and Pregnancy Lab. Dr. Dunkel Schetter and colleagues measured levels of the a stress hormone released by the placenta, placental corticotropin-releasing hormone, or pCRH. Subjects in the study were an ethnically mixed group of 210 pregnant women who provided blood samples and answered interview questions at 19, 29 and 37 weeks of pregnancy, and again eight weeks after delivering their baby.

Strong familial support was associated with lower levels of pCRH as well as a lower chance of postpartum depression. Support from the baby’s father was associated with less depression, but did not lower the stress hormone pCRH.

Effects of Stress on the Fetus

Pregnancy hormones affect more than the mother. MedicineNet notes that pregnant women with the highest levels of stress hormones, “will likely deliver prematurely, and those with lowest levels are apt to deliver past their due dates.”  Research by Dr. Calvin Hobel, a perinatologist, demonstrates that stressed mothers pass that stress along to their fetus, sometimes resulting in pre-term labor and the potential to re-wire infants to react differently to the world around them.  The Infants whose mothers were stressed show “show signs of more depression and irritability” according to MedicineNet.

Implications of the Research for Pregnant Women

Support during pregnancy is important for the well-being of the mother and can help prevent postpartum depression.  Women should seek out and accept support from family and the baby’s father during pregnancy. Dunkel Schetter was quoted as saying, “early social-support interventions might provide a buffer against both elevated pCRH and depressive symptoms.”

Would you like to see more articles like this?
Support This Expert's Articles, This Category of Articles, or the Site in General Here.
Just put your preference in the "I Would Like to Support" Box after you Click to Donate Below:


Women without a familial support might consider joining one of several on-line support groups for expectant mothers.  MyPregnancyPlace offers a free online journal and discussion forum. BabyCenter offers answers by both experts and moms, and Decoded Pregnancy is an excellent place to ask questions as well!


BabyCenter. BabyCenter Home. (2013). Accessed April 1, 2013.

Anna Mikulak and Stuart Wolpert. Pregnant Mothers with Strong Family Support Less Likely to Have Postpartum Depression, Study Finds. (2013). UCLA. Accessed April 1, 2013.

MedicineNet. Fetus to Mom: You’re Stressing Me Out! (2013). Accessed April 1, 2013.

My Pregnancy Place. My Pregnancy Place Home. Accessed April 1, 2013.

Decoded Everything is a non-profit corporation, dependent on donations from readers like you. Donate now, and keep the great information coming!

Speak Your Mind