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For many mothers, postpartum depression does not resolve

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

November 2012

Postpartum 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 DennisDr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, Shirley Brown Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research at Women’s College Research Institute, 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 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 follow-up.”

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 potentially modifiable. A previous history of depression (nearly twice as likely than 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.

More on WCRI’s mental health Impact + Innovation

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