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For many mothers, postpartum depression does not resolve

October 29, 2012

Continued screening for maternal depression integral to long-term health of babies and mothers

Dr. Cindy-Lee DennisPostpartum depression is a pervasive and under-recognized health issue that can have a lasting negative impact on the health of children and entire families.

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and Shirley Brown Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research, recently co-authored a study of nearly 6,500 women between five and 14 months after giving birth.

“Our findings suggest that postpartum depression does not resolve with time for a substantial number of mothers,” says Dr. Dennis, who is also a University of Toronto professor in the department of psychiatry and the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.

Published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the study highlights the “vital need for the early and accurate identification of women with PPD [postpartum depression], the provision of timely and innovative treatment options, and the development of multidisciplinary care pathways to ensure treatment compliance and appropriate followup.”

It is the first epidemiologic study to provide national and regional prevalence rates for postpartum depressive symptoms.

“We found that about 7.5 per cent of Canadian women were depressed beyond 12 weeks after giving birth, with rates consistently elevated throughout the first postpartum year,” she says.

The team also identified predictors of postpartum depressive symptoms, many of which are psychosocial and potentially modifiable. A previous history of depression (nearly twice as likely as those without), low household income, low postpartum social support (nearly four times more likely), stressful life events (more than twice as likely) and interpersonal violence were independently associated with postpartum depressive symptoms.

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