Postpartum fatigue and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Nathan Wilson, Jin Joo Lee, Bei Bei

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: : New parents are vulnerable to fatigue and depressive symptoms. Many studies have reported significant positive correlations between the two in postpartum parents, but the size of correlations varies considerably between studies. The relationship between postpartum fatigue and depression is yet to be systematically synthesized and meta-analyzed. Methods: : A PROSPERO registered systematic review and meta-analysis (CRD42017065240) was conducted on the correlation between fatigue and depression within the first two years postpartum in parents. Moderation analysis was used to examine the influence of demographic and measurement factors on the effect sizes. Results: : Thirty-five eligible papers were identified (34 on mothers, 1 on fathers). The meta-analytic summary effect size for simultaneously measured fatigue and depressive symptoms among women in the postpartum period was r = 0.52, 95% CI [0.45, 0.59], p <.001. There was a high degree of heterogeneity in the strength of the correlation between studies. This heterogeneity was not accounted for by demographic (e.g., infant age, maternal age, population type) or methodology (e.g., measurement) related moderators. Limitations: : Studies not reporting or providing correlation between fatigue and depression were not included. Unable to assess some moderators due to limited sample size. Conclusions: : There is a strong correlation between fatigue and depressive symptoms among women in the first two years after child-birth, but a high degree of heterogeneity in correlation strength exists between studies. Careful assessment of both fatigue and depression when either symptom is reported could facilitate accurate differential diagnosis and prioritizing treatment in postpartum women. Further implications for assessment, treatment, and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-233
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Meta-analysis
  • Postnatal
  • Postpartum
  • Systematic review

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