Associations between antenatal depression and neonatal outcomes in Malawi

Robert C Stewart, Per Ashorn, Eric Umar, Kathryn G Dewey, Ulla Ashorn, Francis Creed, Atif Rahman, Barbara Tomenson, Elizabeth L Prado, Ken Maleta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies from several low- and middle-income countries have shown that antenatal depression may be a risk factor for poor neonatal outcomes. However, those studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa have not consistently demonstrated this association. We set out to investigate whether antenatal depression is associated with shorter duration of pregnancy and reduced newborn size in rural Malawi. Pregnant women recruited from four antenatal clinics to the International Lipid-Based Nutrient Supplements Project-DYAD-Malawi (iLiNS-DYAD-M) randomised controlled trial of nutrient supplementation were screened for antenatal depression in the second or third trimester using a locally validated version of the Self Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ). Outcomes were duration of pregnancy, birthweight, newborn length for age z-score (LAZ), head circumference z-score, and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC). Other potential confounding factors and predictors of birth outcome were measured and adjusted for in the analysis. 1,391 women were enrolled to the trial. 1,006/1,391 (72.3%) of these women completed an SRQ and gave birth to a singleton infant whose weight was measured within 2 weeks of birth. 143/1,006 (14.2%) scored SRQ ≥ 8, indicating likely depression. Antenatal depression was not associated with birth weight, duration of pregnancy, newborn LAZ, or head-circumference Z-score. There was an inverse association with newborn MUAC (adjusted mean difference - 0.2 cm (95% CI -0.4 to 0, p = 0.021) the significance of which is unclear. The study was conducted within a randomised controlled trial of nutritional supplementation and there was a high proportion of missing data in some enrolment sites; this may have affected the validity of our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e12709
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number2
Early online date2 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Adult
  • Depression/diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malawi/epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications/diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


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