Nearly one out of every ten pregnant women will experience postpartum depression, or have depressive symptoms during their pregnancy. But there is very little research to explain why. However, a new study hopes to identify some of the causes of postpartum depression and isolate warning signs in order to help these women receive earlier treatment and interventions. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and lead author of the study, surveyed over 150 women who were experiencing depressive symptoms. Each of the women was either pregnant or postpartum, and was receiving care for their symptoms at UNC’s Perinatal Psychiatry Clinic.
Meltzer-Brody and colleagues discovered that nearly one third of the women had a previous history with food issues, and many of these same women had experienced either sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives. The researchers believe that all of these factors contribute to the increased risk for postpartum or pregnancy depression. They believe that psychiatric screening should be incorporated into traditional prenatal care. “Screening by obstetrical providers is really important because they can refer patients for appropriate treatment,” said Meltzer-Brody. “And that can prevent long-lasting problems for mom and baby.”
She adds that this condition can have long-term impacts for the mother, family and the children. Children whose mothers have mental health challenges are at a much higher risk for developing them as well. “The message we need to get out is that these things are incredibly common and routine screenings need to occur,” said Meltzer-Brody. “The prevalence of abuse and eating disorder histories may be much higher than people appreciate.” She adds, ““Pregnancy and the postpartum period is a very vulnerable time for women.” Change in weight, hormones and lifestyle can all affect a woman’s mental state. Meltzer-Brody believes mental health evaluations during pregnancy can help reduce this type of depression.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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