In so many books and articles and news programs you hear the statistic: approximately 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum disorders, including postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. What bothers me about that statistic is that it holds no meaning for most people — and because of that I think this illness gets much less attention and much less funding than so many of the other prevalent illnesses that strike Americans. As a result, I decided to do a bit of quick research to help people understand the real impact that postpartum depression is having on the women of our country.
According to the National Center of Health Statistics, there were a little over 4 million live births in 2002 (4,021,726) in the United States. If you take the conservative number used by most everyone when discussing postpartum disorders (10%), that means that each year approximately 400,000 women suffer a serious post partum illness.
How does that compare with other the number of people diagnosed with other illnesses?
* Each year, approximately 50,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
* Each year, approximately 250,000 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
* Each year, approximately 10,400 people are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis according to the National MS Society.
* Each year, approximately 800,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes.
In 2001, 550,000 died of cancer according to the American Cancer Society. Almost as many women are falling ill with postpartum disorders each year as people are dying of cancer. I doubt people realize that. And what’s even more interesting to me (and I’m no statistician) is that the statistics from those other illnesses represent the general population of men and women, whereas the 400,000 postpartum sufferers are only drawn from the female population.
This really is a big problem, and deserves more attention than it’s getting.