'We need to support mums' - one in eight pregnant Kiwi women depressed

A researcher says new figures that suggest one in eight Kiwi women suffers from depression while pregnant are "alarming" and says we must do more to support expectant mothers - for their benefit and that of her child.

The findings from Growing Up in New Zealand also found rates of depression were higher in women of Asian and Pacific Island ethnicity. 

Researcher Susan Morton said antenatal depression was a chemical imbalance and illness, and something "we probably don't recognise enough in pregnancy". 

One in eight New Zealand women suffer from depression symptoms while pregnant, new research has found. Source: Breakfast

"I think it is incredibly important to look at what we can do to support mums and there are various ways they can be treated," she told TVNZ's Breakfast.

"Pregnancy is such an important period for the development of the baby and well as for mum herself.

Pregnancy is such an important period for the development of the baby and well as for mum herself - Susan Morton, researcher

"It sets up so many early life trajectories for wellbeing for that child that if we can recognise antenatal depression better and support mum through that critical time of pregnancy, we’re setting babies up to do better for the rest of their lives."

Ms Morton says if a mother is unable to care for herself properly due to illness, it can lead to babies being born prematurely and smaller, and increases the chance they won't be able to breastfeed.

It can also increase the chance of postnatal depression. 

The researchers analysed interviews with 5664 pregnant women.