Network Analyses of Maternal Pre- and Post-Partum Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Maternal mental health problems often develop prenatally and predict post-partum mental health. However, the circumstances before and following childbirth differ considerably. We currently lack an understanding of dynamic variation in the profiles of depressive and anxiety symptoms over the perinatal period. Methods: Depressive and anxiety symptoms were self-reported by 980 women at 26-week pregnancy and 3 months post-partum. We used network analysis of depressive and anxiety symptoms to investigate if the symptoms network changed during and after pregnancy. The pre- and post-partum depressive-anxiety symptom networks were assessed for changes in structure, unique symptom-symptom interactions, central and bridging symptoms. We also assessed if central symptoms had stronger predictive effect on offspring’s developmental outcomes outcomes at birth and 24, 54, and 72 months old than non-central symptoms. Bridging symptoms between negative and positive mental health were also assessed. Results: Though the depressive-anxiety network structures were stable during and after pregnancy, the post-partum network was more strongly connected. The central depressive-anxiety symptoms were also different between prenatal and post-partum networks. During pregnancy, central symptoms were mostly related to feeling worthless or useless; after pregnancy, central symptoms were mostly related to feeling overwhelmed or being punished. Central symptoms during pregnancy were associated with poorer developmental outcomes for the child. Anxiety symptoms were strongest bridging symptoms during and after pregnancy. The interactions between negative and positive mental health symptoms were also different during and after pregnancy. Conclusions: The differences between pre- and post-partum networks suggest that the presentation of maternal mental health problems varies over the peripartum period. This variation is not captured by traditional symptom scale scores. The bridging symptoms also suggest that anxiety symptoms may precede the development of maternal depression. Interventions and public health policies should thus be tailored to specific pre- and post-partum symptom profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number785
JournalFrontiers in psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2020


  • bridging symptoms
  • child development
  • maternal psychopathology
  • perinatal
  • positive mental health

Cite this