Mar. 14, 2013 —
Science Daily/Northwestern University
A surprisingly high number of women have postpartum depressive symptoms, according to a new, large-scale study by a Northwestern Medicine® researcher.
The study underscored the importance of prenatal as well as postpartum screening. Mothers' and infants' health and lives hang in the balance. The lives of several women who were suicidal when staff members called them for the screening were saved likely as a result of the study's screening and immediate intervention.
"In the U.S., the vast majority of postpartum women with depression are not identified or treated even though they are at higher risk for psychiatric disorders," said Northwestern Medicine lead study author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D. "It's a huge public health problem. A woman's mental health has a profound effect on fetal development as well as her child's physical and emotional development."
Maternal prenatal stress and depression is linked to preterm birth and low infant birth weight, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Depression also affects a woman's appetite, nutrition and prenatal care and is associated with increased alcohol and drug use. Women with untreated depression have a higher body mass index preconception, which carries additional risks.
When a new mother is depressed, her emotional state can interfere with child development and increases the rate of insecure attachment and poor cognitive performance of her child, Wisner said.