Finding the first-time mothers who need greater support for mental health

Lead Researchers: Professor Cecily Begley, Dr Deirdre Daly and Associate Professor Margaret Carroll, Trinity College Dublin

The HRB-funded MAMMI study suggests that women with a history of feeling depressed before pregnancy may need more focused mental health support in pregnancy and in the months after birth.
In Summary

The MAMMI study surveyed more than 3,000 first-time mothers in Ireland during pregnancy and in the months after giving birth. One strand of the study asked about feelings of depression among the first-time mothers. So far, that shows around one in five new mothers feel depressed shortly after giving birth, and it tends to be mothers who had also felt depressed prior to pregnancy. This suggests that asking about previous feelings of depression could be a way to identify women who may need more focused support for mental wellbeing in pregnancy and early motherhood.

The Problem

During pregnancy and after giving birth, some women experience feelings of depression. Up to now we have had little formal data on which women are most at risk for this in Ireland.

The Project

As part of the MAMMI Study [], the research team surveyed 3,041 first‑time mothers, who were attending maternity hospitals in Ireland. The women answered questions about their health, including whether they felt they experienced depression. The study is ongoing.

The Outcomes

We now know that:

  • The majority of women – around 3 to 4 in every 5 ‑ do not report feeling depressed during pregnancy and in the period after birth.
  • Women who reported feelings of depression during pregnancy and after birth tended to have also felt depressed before the pregnancy.

The findings suggest that women with a history of depression should be offered more focused mental health support during and after pregnancy.The preliminary study findings were widely reported in the media and shared on social media.

Professor Cecily Begley, Chair of Nursing & Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, says:

'Many clinicians don’t ask women whether they feel depressed during pregnancy and after birth. In this study, we asked more than 3,000 women, and what we found is highlighting that previous feelings of depression may be a sign that women could need greater support for their mental health in pregnancy and after giving birth'.