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Depressive scores in newly diagnosed HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected pregnant women

Puvashnee Nydoo
Thajasvarie Naicker
Jagidesa Moodley


Background: Prevalence rates of HIV infection in KwaZulu-Natal are high, with a significant amount of those infected being women of reproductive age. A diagnosis of HIV infection has been associated with an increased risk for the development of depression. Antenatal depression is a serious health concern, having the potential to cause wide-reaching adverse consequences for mother and unborn child.

Aim: To compare depressive scores between newly diagnosed HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected pregnant women.

Setting: Antenatal clinics at two regional hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based analysis of 102 newly HIV-tested black African pregnant women (HIV infected: n = 40; HIV uninfected: n = 62) was conducted. Women’s socio-demographic and clinical data were recorded, before being assessed for depressive symptomology using an isiZulu version of the Edinburgh Depression Scale.

Results: About 9.8% of women suffered from significant depressive symptoms, irrespective of HIV status. Prevalence rates of antenatal depressive symptoms did not differ significantly between HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected cohorts (p = 0.79). A new diagnosis of HIV infection (p < 0.0001) and maternal age (p = 0.03) were risk factors for antenatal depression. Unemployment was a borderline risk factor (p = 0.09) for the development of antenatal depression.

Conclusion: Prevalence rates of depressive symptoms were low. Knowledge of a new diagnosis of HIV infection at the first antenatal visit places women at an increased risk for the development of depression during pregnancy. Younger age and unemployment influence depression. This study provides an important step in documenting the need for screening for antenatal depression in HIV-associated pregnancies in a South African population group.