A recent study conducted by Kaiser Permanente shows that more than one in seven women are depressed at some time during the nine months before becoming pregnant, during pregnancy, or in the nine months after childbirth. The study is the first integrated survey of maternal depression and appears in the October 2007 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry. It also found that more than half of the women who experienced postpartum depression had also been depressed before becoming pregnant or during pregnancy.
“These findings show we need to pay more attention to depression before pregnancy,” said Evelyn Whitlock, MD, MPH, co-author of the study and senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. “Doctors and the public tend to focus more on postpartum depression because of the huge gap between a new mother’s joyful expectations and the crushing reality of depression.”
Postpartum depression affects 400,000 women in the United States. Its consequences can be devastating, as it can inhibit a woman’s ability to bond with her infant, relate to the child’s father and perform daily activities. According to Whitlock, “while postpartum depression clearly is an important concern, we also need to consider the mental health and treatment needs of the many women who are depressed right before or during their pregnancies.”
The study involved over 4,000 women over a period of three years. Investigators found that 8.7 percent were identified as depressed in the nine months before pregnancy, 6.9 percent during pregnancy, and 10.4 percent in the nine months following delivery. A total of 15.4 percent (more than one in seven women) were depressed during at least one of these three periods. The study also revealed that more than half of the women depressed before pregnancy then became depressed during their pregnancy, while nearly three-fourths of women with postpartum depression also were depressed before pregnancy. “The biggest news here,” according to Whitlock, “is that we need to manage depression as a chronic condition in women of childbearing age, rather than assume depression is a temporary condition that can be either triggered or relieved by getting pregnant or giving birth. “Women with a history of depression should be closely monitored for depressive symptoms during prenatal and postpartum care. And, given recent evidence showing that relapse of depression is twice as common in pregnant women with major depression who stop taking antidepressants after becoming pregnant as women who continue treatment, a choice of effective and safe treatment options for depressed pregnant women is very important.”
To view additional information regarding postpartum depression, please see blogs previously posted by Regan Zambri & Long:
Please visit the NYU Medical Center/NYU School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry‘s Online Depression Screening Test if you have any concerns regarding whether you could be suffering from depression.
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