Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Prevalence and determinants of common perinatal mental disorders in women in low- and lower-middle-income countries: a systematic review

Jane Fisher, Meena Cabral de Mello, Vikram Patel, Atif Rahman, Thach Tran, Sara Holton & Wendy Holmes


To review the evidence about the prevalence and determinants of non-psychotic common perinatal mental disorders (CPMDs) in World Bank categorized low- and lower-middle-income countries.


Major databases were searched systematically for English-language publications on the prevalence of non-psychotic CPMDs and on their risk factors and determinants. All study designs were included.


Thirteen papers covering 17 low- and lower-middle-income countries provided findings for pregnant women, and 34, for women who had just given birth. Data on disorders in the antenatal period were available for 9 (8%) countries, and on disorders in the postnatal period, for 17 (15%). Weighted mean prevalence was 15.6% (95% confidence interval, CI: 15.4–15.9) antenatally and 19.8% (19.5–20.0) postnatally. Risk factors were: socioeconomic disadvantage (odds ratio [OR] range: 2.1–13.2); unintended pregnancy (1.6–8.8); being younger (2.1–5.4); being unmarried (3.4–5.8); lacking intimate partner empathy and support (2.0–9.4); having hostile in-laws (2.1–4.4); experiencing intimate partner violence (2.11–6.75); having insufficient emotional and practical support (2.8–6.1); in some settings, giving birth to a female (1.8–2.6), and having a history of mental health problems (5.1–5.6). Protective factors were: having more education (relative risk: 0.5; P = 0.03); having a permanent job (OR: 0.64; 95% CI: 0.4–1.0); being of the ethnic majority (OR: 0.2; 95% CI: 0.1–0.8) and having a kind, trustworthy intimate partner (OR: 0.52; 95% CI: 0.3–0.9).


CPMDs are more prevalent in low- and lower-middle-income countries, particularly among poorer women with gender-based risks or a psychiatric history.