A study of new mothers in Iowa found that poorer mothers were more likely to suffer postpartum depression, as were African-American women.

Forty percent of Iowa mothers with a household income of less than $20,000 suffered from clinically-significant postpartum depression, compared to only 13 percent of new mothers whose household income was $80,000 or more, according to a study of 4,332 women from four Iowa counties.

The study, conducted by U of I psychologist Lisa Segre, was published last April in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the U of I reported Tuesday. Women were surveyed in the late 1990s about 4.6 months after they had given birth.

"Women who are poor already have a lot of stress, ranging from poor living conditions to concerns about paying the bills," Segre said in a news release. "The birth of an infant can represent additional financial and emotional stress, and depression negatively impacts the woman’s ability to cope with these already difficult circumstances."

In a second study on race and postpartum emotions in Iowa, Segre found that African-American mothers are more likely than white mothers to experience depressed moods immediately after giving birth, but Latina mothers are less likely to experience depressed moods.

This survey was given to 26,877 English-speaking mothers in maternity wards of Iowa hospitals in 2001 and 2002. The results were published in March 2006 in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. Segre said the results may indicate women with strong social support are more resistant to postpartum depression.

Segre and psychology professor Michael O’Hara have worked with Healthy Start in Des Moines to teach caseworkers and nurses to screen new mothers for depression. They are also developing a program of "listening visits," in which a caseworker or nurse listens to mildly- or moderately-depressed mothers talk through their problems.

Segre recently received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of listening visits in the United States. She will travel to Des Moines to interview participating mothers from Healthy Start before and after their listening visits.