Different Paths for Postpartum Depression Tied to Risk Factors

A new study shows that depression following childbirth can begin at different times and follow multiple distinct paths.

Researchers believe this finding emphasizes the need for clinicians to monitor for signs of postpartum depression and be aware of risk factors that may predispose a new mother to depression for up to twelve months.

Investigators identified and characterized six different depression paths based on their analysis of 2802 mothers who completed interviews, beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy and continuing through the first year after birth.

Researchers discovered distinct depression trajectories. A history of anxiety or depression, unattached marital status, and inadequate social support were significantly associated with increased risk for developing depression.

Most of the risk factors for depression were stable or slightly decreased over time, but one depression trajectory, encompassing 1.7 percent of the mothers, showed women who were nondepressed at the third trimester, but became depressed at six months postpartum, were increasingly depressed at 12 months after birth.

The study is published in the Journal of Women’s Health. Study authors include Jennifer McCall-Hosenfeld, M.D., Eric Schaefer, Junjia Zhu, Ph.D. and Kristen Kjerulff, Ph.D., and Kristen Phiri, M.D.

“These findings provide an important new depth of understanding of this common disorder affecting pregnant women and new mothers,” said Susan G. Kornstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of Journal of Women’s Health.

“The study follows closely on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force assessment supporting screening for depression in pregnant and postpartum women.”

Source: Mary Ann Liebert/EurekAlert