Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Perinatal Depression Risk Factors

  • The aetiology of perinatal depression is variable and multi-factorial.
  • Examples of high level risk factors for perinatal depression:
    • A history of psychiatric illness, including any experience of depressive symptoms at any time, not just during the perinatal period.
    • Prenatal symptoms of anxiety.
    • A first onset of depression during postpartum.
  • Examples of moderate level risk factors for perinatal depression:
    • Stressful life events (e.g., relationship breakdown or divorce, losing a job, housing insecurity).
    • Refugee or immigrant status.
    • Low social support or perception of low support.
    • Unfavourable obstetric outcome.
    • Low self-esteem.
    • Histories of physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adulthood.
    • Intimate partner violence.
    • History of reproductive trauma (e.g., infertility).
    • Grief related to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. 
    • Substance use, including use of tobacco.
  • Examples of low level risk factors for perinatal depression:

      o   Low socioeconomic status.

      o   Single marital status.

      o   Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

      o   Breastfeeding challenges, including a lack of support by partner or health-care provider.  

  • Where multiple or higher risks are determined, closer monitoring is indicated to aid in the prevention of the development of symptoms or to intervene sooner in order to mitigate illness severity.


Women and Children
Assessment and Interventions Perinatal Depression
Background Information