According to a new study from Kaiser Permanente, more than one in seven women are depressed in the nine months before pregnancy, during their pregnancy, or in the nine months after giving birth. Highlights from an article on the study on WebMD:
The new research expands on information already known about depression after childbirth. "People have known for quite a while that postpartum depression is a serious, sometimes devastating event," says researcher Evelyn Whitlock, MD, MPH, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. "One of the things we were able to do is look across the spectrum — nine months before pregnancy, the nine months of pregnancy, and the nine months postpartum. I think this is the first study to do that" …
The study, with an accompanying editorial urging more research, is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Whitlock and her colleagues evaluated 4,398 women, all members of the Kaiser Permanente HMO, who had given birth between 1998 and 2001.
Before pregnancy, 8.7% were identified as depressed by their health care providers; 6.9% were classified as depressed during the pregnancy, and 10.4% were depressed in the nine months after delivery. In all, 15.4%, or more than one in seven of the women, were depressed during at least one of the three periods.
About half of the women who had postpartum depression also were depressed before the pregnancy occurred or during pregnancy. More than half of those depressed before pregnancy became depressed during the pregnancy, suggesting the condition is not temporary or relieved by getting pregnant or by giving birth.
Whitlock also found that 93.4% of those with pregnancy-related depression had seen a mental health provider and/or gotten antidepressants. About 77% of women took an antidepressant before becoming pregnant, 67% during pregnancy, and 82% after giving birth. Since the study, reports of possible side effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy, including lung problems and heart problems in newborns, have been published. As a result, doctors emphasize that a careful evaluation of the risks and benefits is crucial before deciding on an antidepressant during pregnancy …