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Environ Health. 2021 Nov 27;20(1):121. doi: 10.1186/s12940-021-00807-x.
BACKGROUND: Depression is the leading cause of mental health-related morbidity and affects twice as many women as men. Hispanic/Latina women in the US have unique risk factors for depression and they have lower utilization of mental health care services. Identifying modifiable risk factors for maternal depression, such as ambient air pollution, is an urgent public health priority. We aimed to determine whether prenatal exposure to ambient air pollutants was associated with maternal depression at 12 months after childbirth.
METHODS: One hundred eighty predominantly low-income Hispanic/Latina women participating in the ongoing MADRES cohort study in Los Angeles, CA were followed from early pregnancy through 12 months postpartum through a series of phone questionnaires and in-person study visits. Daily prenatal ambient pollutant estimates of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) were assigned to participant residences using inverse-distance squared spatial interpolation from ambient monitoring data. Exposures were averaged for each trimester and across pregnancy. The primary outcome measure was maternal depression at 12 months postpartum, as reported on the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale. We classified each participant as depressed (n = 29) or not depressed (n = 151) based on the suggested cutoff of 16 or above (possible scores range from 0 to 60) and fitted logistic regression models, adjusting for potential confounders.
RESULTS: We found over a two-fold increased odds of depression at 12 months postpartum associated with second trimester NO2 exposure (OR = 2.63, 95% CI: 1.41-4.89) and pregnancy average NO2 (OR = 2.04, 95% CI: 1.13-3.69). Higher second trimester PM2.5 exposure also was associated with increased depression at 12 months postpartum (OR = 1.56, 95% CI: 1.01-2.42). The effect for second trimester PM10 was similar and was borderline significant (OR = 1.58, 95% CI: 0.97-2.56).
CONCLUSIONS: In a low-income cohort consisting of primarily Hispanic/Latina women in urban Los Angeles, we found that prenatal ambient air pollution, especially mid-pregnancy NO2 and PM2.5, increased the risk of depression at 12 months after childbirth. These results underscore the need to better understand the contribution of modifiable environmental risk factors during potentially critical exposure periods.