Prevalence and determinants of perinatal depression among labour migrant and refugee women on the Thai-Myanmar border: A cohort study

Gracia Fellmeth*, Emma Plugge, Mina Fazel, May May Oo, Mupawjay Pimanpanarak, Yuwapha Phichitpadungtham, Kerry Wai, Prakaykaew Charunwatthana, Julie A. Simpson, François Nosten, Raymond Fitzpatrick, Rose McGready

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Perinatal depression is a significant contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality globally. Migrant women, particularly those living in low-and middle-income settings, represent a particularly vulnerable group due to stressors experienced before, during and after migration. The vast majority of global migration flows occurring within and between low-and middle-income regions, yet existing evidence focuses predominantly on migrants in high-income destinations. This study aimed to redress this significant gap in the evidence by determining the prevalence and determinants of perinatal depression among migrant women on the Thai-Myanmar border. Methods: A cohort of labour migrant and refugee women was followed-up from the first trimester of pregnancy to one month post-partum. Depression status was assessed in the first, second and third trimesters of pregnancy and at one month post-partum using the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnosis of DSM-IV Disorders. Women diagnosed with depression had immediate access to care. Data on potential demographic, social and clinical associated factors was collected using a questionnaire. Prevalence and incidence of any depressive disorder and moderate-severe depressive disorder was calculated. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression using complete case analysis was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) of association between exposure variables and depression status. Results: Five hundred sixty-eight women participated. Period prevalence (from first trimester of pregnancy to one month post-partum) of moderate-severe perinatal depression was 18.5% (95% CI 15.4-21.9%). Overall, 15.4% (95% CI 11.8-19.6%) of women developed new-onset moderate-severe depression during the study period. Forty-two participants received treatment for depression. Risk factors were interpersonal violence (OR 4.5; 95% CI 1.9-11.1); history of trauma (OR 2.4; 95% CI 1.4-4.3); self-reported history of depression (OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.2-4.2); labour migrant status (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.1-4.0); low social support (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.1-3.7); and maternal age (OR 1.1 per year; 95% CI 1.0-1.1). Limitations of the study include that culturally specific manifestations of depression may have been missed. Conclusions: Perinatal depression represents a significant burden among migrant women on the Thai-Myanmar border. Programmes to address the determinants along with early case identification and effective treatment and referral systems are key to addressing perinatal depression in this low-resource setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number168
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020

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© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Depression
  • Low-and middle-income
  • Migrant
  • Perinatal
  • Refugee


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