Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Women May Continue to Experience Symptoms of Postpartum Depression 3 Years After Giving Birth

Some women may continue to experience depressive symptoms up to three years after having a baby, according to a study published Wednesday in Pediatrics. The risk appears to be higher for women who have a history of depression and/or gestational diabetes.

The findings suggest that primary care physicians should assess postpartum mothers more regularly and for a more extended period than has been previously recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that primary care pediatricians screen mothers for depression at children’s one-, two-, four-, and six-month well visits.

“Assessing mothers multiple times early and late in the postpartum period and extending the postpartum period to at least two years after birth would provide a clearer picture of mothers whose symptoms are persisting or increasing, and mothers who had not already sought treatment could be connected with resources,” wrote Diane L. Putnick, Ph.D., of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed data on 4,866 mothers in the UpState Kids Study, a population-based birth cohort study conducted between 2008 and 2010 to evaluate the impact of infertility treatment on child growth and development up to age 3. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS-5), when the children were 4, 12, 24, and 36 months of age.

Putnick and colleagues looked at the following four groups of mothers with varying trajectories of depression:

  • persistently low levels of depression at all four assessments
  • low levels of depression at 4-month assessment that increased over time
  • high levels of depression at 4- and 12-month assessments that decreased over time
  • persistently high levels of depression at all four assessments

A total of 218 (4.5%) of the women had persistently high levels of depressive symptoms, while 398 (8.2%) had low levels of depressive symptoms that increased over time; 613 women (12.6%) had high levels of depressive symptoms at four months that decreased over time.

Together, 25.3% of the study sample had elevated depressive symptoms at some point during the three-year postpartum period. Younger mothers, those who did not have a college degree, and those with a history of depression and/or gestational diabetes appeared to be at highest risk for persistently higher symptoms of depression.

“Routine well-child visits may need to be extended for pediatricians to have the time to assess the mother’s mental health and risk factors, in addition to the child’s health and development,” the researchers wrote. “Mothers’ mental health is critical to child well-being and development.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Pandemic Has Compromised Mental Health of New Moms.”

(Image: iStock\FatCamera)

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