Many women suffer from postpartum depression, study finds
According to a large-scale study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, the number of women suffering from postpartum depression is incredibly high. It is the first time a complete psychiatric assessment is made among women diagnosed with postpartum depression. The study, involving nearly 10,000 women who recently born children in single obstetrical hospital, showed that there is a significant percentage of women who experienced episodes of major depression. Northwestern Medicine study lead author Katherine L. Wisner, MD, said that in the United States most women who suffer from depression are not diagnosed and treated early, even if they are at risk of psychiatric disorders. She added that it is a major health problem and the mental health of a pregnant woman affects not only physically but also emotionally the fetus.
The study showed that 14% of women were diagnosed with depression, and of these 826 have received full psychiatric assessments. Of the women screened positive for depression, over 19% thought of harming themselves. It should be noted that suicide is the second most common cause of death in postpartum women. So, screening is important because it can save lives. It was also found that many women who had an episode of major depression or anxiety disorders also had an episode of depression before pregnancy.
The study also pointed out that among women with major depression, 22% were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, disorder that was not identified by doctors in many cases. It is known that bipolar disorder is not easy to diagnose, especially if the person is in a manic phase. However, the postpartum period shows very high risk of developing new episodes of mania. Wisner said that this is very important because treatment with antidepressants alone can worsen bipolar disorder evolution. Another finding was that women who gave birth were much less likely to seek help than women who were in their first pregnancy.
There are several consequences of depression on both mother and newborn. It is already known that antepartum maternal stress is associated with preterm delivery and low infant birth weight, which in turn may affect cardiovascular system. Depression can cause a number of abuses such as alcohol or drug abuse, and also it may affect appetite, which has negative consequences not only on the fetus but also on the mother. “Depression during pregnancy increases the risk to a woman and her fetus,” Wisner said. “Depression is a physiological dysregulation disorder of the entire body.”