Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Chrissy Teigen have spoken candidly about postpartum depression, along with a slew of other figures in the public eye who have opened up about the struggles that follow pregnancy. But while the discussion surrounding postpartum depression is becoming less taboo, not enough people are talking about depression while pregnant, which is increasingly prevalent with the rise of technology and social media.
According to a new study conducted at the University of Bristol, and recorded in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), pregnant millennials are more likely to develop depression than older generations.
The longitudinal study, led by Rebecca Pearson, Ph.D., a researcher at the university’s Centre for Academic Mental Health, compared the difference in depression rates during pregnancy in today’s young mothers with their mothers’ generation. The researchers studied one generation of pregnancies, those that occurred between 1990 to 1992, and then compared the results to a second generation, from 2012 to 2016.
The findings revealed that 25 percent of women in the current generation reported high levels of depression while pregnant, compared to the 17 percent of women who were pregnant in the nineties. The researchers believe changes in society and lifestyle may have contributed to the significant increase. “Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and the fast pace of modern life may be contributing to an increasing prevalence of depression among young people generally,” stated Pearson, who says the impact of such changes become amplified during pregnancy. “This generation of young women has also experienced rapid change in technology, internet, and social media use, which has been associated with increased feelings of depression and social isolation and changes to social relationships.”
In today’s overwhelming age of consumption, it’s difficult to ignore the large role our devices play in our ongoing thoughts and feelings. We’re constantly being bombarded with messages and standards that cause us to compare ourselves to others and invalidate our own lives – and while occasionally unplugging and setting boundaries with technology is important, the broader conversation surrounding technology’s effect on our mental state is not one to be set aside. So what do these findings mean for future pregnant women? The researchers emphasize that “increased support” for young pregnant women is key for future generations, and the work isn’t done just yet. “There are a number of plausible explanations for this phenomenon that deserve further investigation in future research to guide prevention and treatment,” says Pearson. “The findings highlight the need for increased screening and resources to support young women and minimize the potentially far-reaching impact of depression on mothers, their children, and future generations.”