Research — 20 January 2014

Up to half of women with postpartum depression – a mood disorder that can occur after childbirth – develop long-term depression, according to a new review.

The findings show the need for doctors to closely monitor women with postpartum depression, said the researchers, from the University of Leuven, in Belgium. Parental depression can harm a child’s long-term development, they said.

The study also underscores the importance of ongoing support during early childhood and beyond, the researchers said.mother and daughter

“Clinicians need to be aware of mothers’ previous episodes of depression and possible contextual factors heightening vulnerability for a chronic course of depression,” the researchers said in a news release from the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Risk factors

For the report, the authors examined studies on postpartum depression conducted between 1985 and 2012. The analysis revealed that 30% to 50% of women with postpartum depression developed long-term depression.

Some of the studies suggested that younger mothers, those with lower incomes and minority women were at increased risk of long-term depression. But the review authors said there was more consistent evidence for other risk factors, including a poor relationship with a partner, a history of depression or sexual abuse in the mother, high levels of parental stress, and certain personality traits.

Colic or other illnesses in the infant did not appear to affect the risk of chronic depression, the researchers said.

Can harm children’s development

They also said postpartum depression can harm a child’s development and the early relationship between mother and child.

“Knowledge about prolonged changes in the mental health of mothers with [postpartum depression] may not only improve our understanding of the course of [the disorder], but also inform prevention and intervention strategies,” the researchers said in the news release.

This article first appeared on ‘Health 24’ on 17 January 2014.


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(1) Reader Comment

  1. I wish academic articles and studies would do a better job when bringing much needed attention to such an important topic. Where I agree with almost everything, I am continually dumbfounded when medical researchers report wrong information. ” a mood disorder that can occur after childbirth”. To be clear, it is a mood disorder that is caused by the precipitating event of being pregnant and or having a baby. The terminology, “a mood disorder that can occur after childbirth” leaves the 20% of moms who get a perinatal mood disorder while they are pregnant out in the dark. Not included or cared for. I think it’s also important to state that no woman is immune. There are circumstances that can put some women at greater risk, but all mothers should be screened, cared for, and monitored, regardless of risk factors.

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