1 in 5 New Mothers Silent on Postpartum Depression

HealthDay News — About 1 in 5 new mothers who develops postpartum depression or another mood disorder after childbirth suffer in silence, according to a study published online in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Betty-Shannon Prevatt, a clinical psychologist and PhD student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and colleagues asked 211 women who had given birth within the past 3 years to participate in an anonymous survey. The mothers were asked if they had any symptoms of postpartum mood disorders and if they told a doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, or doula about these symptoms. They were also asked about any barriers that would prevent them from seeking care.

The survey showed that 51% of the mothers involved in the study met criteria for a postpartum mood disorder. Of that group, about 20% never told a health care provider about their struggles. 

New mothers who had the highest stress levels and those with the strongest support networks were more likely to seek out help for a mood disorder after childbirth, the researchers noted. Overall, women who were unemployed, had a history of mental health issues, or had the most severe symptoms of a mood disorder were more likely to report various problems accessing needed care.

“This work highlights the importance of support networks and the need to normalize the wide variety of reactions women have after childbirth,” Prevatt said in a university news release. “We need to make it okay for women to talk about their mental health, so that they can have better access to care. Working with the people around new mothers may be key.”

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Prevatt BS, Desmarais SL. Facilitators and barriers to disclosure of postpartum mood disorder symptoms to a healthcare provider [published online August 1, 2017]. Matern Child Health J. doi:10.1007/s10995-017-2361-5