Only 6.4pc of expectant mothers suffer, compared with up to 20pc elsewhere, a Chinese University study shows Hong Kong women are less likely to experience depression when pregnant than those in many other countries, local research suggests. Doctors found that only 6.4 per cent of expectant mothers suffered antenatal depression, compared with 10 to 20 per cent of women in countries such as Britain, the United States, Australia and Japan. Dominic Lee Tak-shing, a professor of psychiatry at the Chinese University and a member of the research team, said this was probably because women in Chinese societies tended to take better care of themselves and were more cautious during pregnancy and received more support from their families. He said despite decades of modernisation and westernisation, Chinese women's pregnancies were still dominated by traditional customs and values. Continuing the lineage was important in Chinese culture and pregnant Chinese women were still carefully looked after, although this trend appeared to be diminishing. But Dr Lee acknowledged that the low rates could also reflect the fact that depressed Chinese women did not tend to seek help. He said it was important to note that the average number of children born to Hong Kong couples had dropped to one, meaning families might place more importance on each birth than those in countries with a higher birth rate. The research, part of the first study on the subject in Hong Kong and which will be published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, studied 1,000 women who visited the Prince of Wales Hospital's antenatal clinic in Sha Tin between 2001 and last year. The average age of the women was 29, 89 per cent were married and 36 per cent were housewives. The participants were asked to complete a monthly questionnaire and were interviewed at week 13 of their pregnancy. The researchers then also made a detailed psychiatric assessment of 70 of the women at 38 weeks. While postnatal depression had been a recognised problem for many years, there had been little research into its consequences, Dr Lee said. Alexander Yip Shing-kai, another member of the research team, said women who experienced antenatal depression were more likely to require epidurals and emergency caesarean sections. The doctors also found that about 70 per cent of women who were depressed during pregnancy did not improve after giving birth. Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2001, which studied more than 9,000 pregnant women in Britain, found that women were more likely to experience depression while pregnant than after giving birth. It also noted that the consequences of antenatal depression were not well understood.