• pregnancy;
  • postpartum;
  • mental health;
  • British Household Panel Survey;
  • GHQ-12

ABSTRACT: Background: Common mental health disorders like depressive and anxiety disorders are frequent in antenatal and postpartum women. However, no agreement about the prevalence of these disorders and the course of women’s mental health during the transition to motherhood exists. This study compared women’s mental health before, during, and after pregnancy with a control group of nonpregnant women. Methods: Three hundred and twenty-four women were assessed before, during, and after their pregnancy with the 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). A control group of 324 women who did not deliver during 3 subsequent years was assessed with the GHQ-12 at corresponding time-points. Results: No differences in GHQ-12 mean scores, prevalence, and incidence of common mental health disorders between the study and control groups were found. No differences in prevalence and incidence rates within each group were found. The presence of a common mental health disorder before pregnancy or in early pregnancy predicted common mental health disorders in the postpartum period. Conclusions: Common mental health disorders are frequent during pregnancy and the postpartum period, but pregnant or postpartum women are not more at risk than those who are not pregnant or who did not deliver. (BIRTH 33:4 December 2006)