Thursday, March 7, 2013

Screening Urged for Anxiety Symptoms After Childbirth

While considerable attention has been paid in recent years to diagnosing and treating postpartum depression, too little has been focused on postpartum anxiety and its consequences, according to a new online report in the journal Pediatrics. Ian Paul, M.D., and colleagues at Penn State College of Medicine studied 1,123 women with an average age of 29 using an in-person interview during their postpartum hospital stays followed-up by telephone surveys at two weeks, two months, and six months after hospital discharge to assess health care use, breastfeeding duration, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety was evaluated with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and depression was evaluated with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Survey. The researchers noted that this is the first study of which they aware to evaluate prospectively the issue of postpartum anxiety and its impact on health care service use. 

The researchers found that anxiety was far more common during the postpartum hospital stay than depression was and remained so in the six months after women left the hospital. And the effects of that anxiety were associated with reduced breastfeeding duration and increased use of health care services by the mother. These services included hospital-based services such as inpatient stays and emergency room visits and unplanned outpatient medical visits. Very few women were found to have high scores on both the anxiety and depression measures. In light of how common postpartum anxiety is, they urged that screenings for it should be part of postpartum evaluations, giving health care providers opportunity to "potentially intervene, particularly among those most affected, such as first-time mothers."

To read about issues related to postpartum depression and treating depression during pregnancy, see Psychiatric News here and here. Also see the American Journal of Psychiatry.

(image: photomak/


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