New Link between Food Issues and Post-Partum Depression

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 John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • April

    June 21st, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Well, I can definitely see how having issues with other things in the oast could influence a woman’s ability to deal with the raging hormones that occur after having a baby. When you have a relatively stable life too then you will have others who are going to notice if there are strange things going on and will be there to support you. Families that have a history of other mental health incidents and certainly physical or sexual abuse may not have that same kind of support system available for the new mom which could lead to untreated postpartum depression.

  • gregory owens

    June 21st, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    and this is why it’s important to be open to your doctor or your psychologist.I have seen people hide things from these professionals because they do not want to let it out,because no one’s ever known those things.but it’s not only right to let them know but can also help relieve you of the burden in your mind!

  • Curtley

    June 21st, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    So many things that we think are isolated actually go on to have an effect on other aspects of our lives in so many forms..And this happens irrespective of whether it is positive or negative..And I think most of us only talk about the negative ones but never of the positive ones..Doing that itself could make us content..

  • tim

    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    Issues are issues and they are gonna surface no matter what. Lose one and you get another.

  • TGI Me

    June 22nd, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    Food as a factor certainly doesn’t seem to go away. Whether for your wonderful health or a lack of it thereof, food I think goes a long way in determining your health. And this finding further substantiates my stand.

    And this is also the reason why we need to watch what we eat and how we eat.After all it’s not starving yourself that’s gonna help you..

  • Pearl M.

    June 24th, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Could it be the worry that history may repeat itself that causes post-partum depression? Those who have been abused know how terrible an experience that is to suffer. They could be wondering “What if somebody rapes my daughter? What will I do? It happened to me, it can happen to them too. What kind of a world am I bringing my child into?” It would be good if this could be spotted by earlier screening.

  • Stuart Hebert

    June 25th, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    @Pearl M. — Same with eating disorders, isn’t it? Having to live up to constantly-increasing expectations of body image propagated by the media, combined with the “ideal figure” mentality. Some mothers worry about living up to the “perfect mom” or “perfect child” myth too.

    If you already feel you’re defective in some fashion because of previous issues–even when it’s obvious to everybody else you’re absolutely not!–you could easily sink into post-partum depression thinking you need to live up to that perfect mom nonsense.

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