Are women with traits of perfectionism more likely to develop perinatal depression? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Emilie Bull, Shahd Al-Janabi, Catherine B. Gittins

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Women who present with a maladaptive form of the perfectionism trait may be vulnerable to perinatal depression (PND). The studies examining this association, though, differ in the specific time-points at which PND is measured, the tool/s used to assess PND and/or perfectionism, and the sample of women used; consequently, extant results reflecting this association can be difficult to integrate and interpret. This systematic review and meta-analysis seeks to clarify the association between PND and perfectionism by surveying literature on the relationship. Literature search strategies were developed using medical subject headings (MeSH) and text words related to PND and perfectionism. Nine electronic databases of published and unpublished literature were searched for relevant studies, which were selected for inclusion in this systematic review and meta-analysis if they contained data on female participants aged 18 or over and pregnant or who were within 12 months post-birth; additionally, studies were included if they contained quantitative reporting of depressive symptoms and trait perfectionism symptoms within the perinatal period (between pregnancy and up to 12 months post-birth). Ten publications were selected for inclusion based on independent review against the selection criteria by the authors. Eight of the 10 publications provided substantial correlational data and were analysed using meta-analytic techniques. All studies showed a significant positive relationship between measures of perfectionism and depression at various time points within the perinatal period (3rd trimester to 12-months postpartum), including concurrently in pregnancy, concurrently in postpartum, and longitudinally between pregnancy and postpartum. Interestingly, however, moderation analyses identified that the relationship between perfectionism and PND in the 3rd trimester may emerge only when a perinatal-specific, but not when a general, depression screening tool is used. These analyses also revealed that the strength of the relationship between perfectionism and PND may increase with length of time postpartum. The findings of this systematic review and meta-analysis, thus, suggest that medical professionals should consider perfectionism when formulating PND prevention strategies and assessing for PND using perinatal-specific screening tools.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)67-78
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
    Early online dateSept 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


    Dive into the research topics of 'Are women with traits of perfectionism more likely to develop perinatal depression? A systematic review and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this