mother and childA large-scale study recently published in JAMA Psychiatry reports as many as one in seven new mothers face postpartum depression. Baby blues is a common condition many women face soon after birth, but as hormone levels return to normal, symptoms typically fade away. Women with postpartum depression tend to suffer stronger depression symptoms that last beyond the postnatal period.

Researchers were able to complete full evaluations of 10,000 women. More than 1,300 women were diagnosed with depression in the year following birth. What was even more devastating was the number of women who considered self-harm during the follow-up period (19.3%). Previous bouts of depression and anxiety were found in 30% and 66% of women, respectively. Some women also experienced symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

Psychological screening is suggested for all pregnant and postpartum women, according to researchers. Depression during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and premature delivery. In the postpartum period, depression may be associated with decreased ability to properly care for an infant leading to long-term emotional and cognitive side effects in childhood.

Screening for depression is crucial for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum, but care must be available to all women and fall within financial means. If mental health care feels out of reach, either physically or financially, women will be less likely to seek treatment and thus proper care cannot be given to women suffering from depression.

Researchers also mentioned a previous study linking social support to postpartum depression. Women who perceived more social support from immediate family and friends were less likely to release a hormone associated with postpartum depression.

Depression can be treated with alternative and traditional therapies during pregnancy. Medications are available for pregnancy women suffering symptoms of depression and anxiety. These medications are safe for use during pregnancy and may help decrease the symptoms associated with postpartum depression.

Source: Katherine L. Wisner, MD, MS; Dorothy K. Y. Sit, MD; Mary C. McShea, MS; David M. Rizzo, MSW et. Al. JAMA Psychiatry, March 2013, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87.