For Some, Postpartum Depression Lingers for Years

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, October 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Many women show symptoms of depression after childbirth, but for some, postpartum depression lasts for years, according to a U.S. government study.

Of the nearly 4,900 new mothers the researchers followed, a quarter had symptoms of depression at some point during their child’s first three years. And for about half of them, the symptoms started early and never improved, or took a long time to appear.

All of this suggests that women should be screened for postpartum depression over a longer period of time, lead researcher Diane Putnick said.

“Based on our data, I would say the screening could continue for two years,” said Putnick, a staff scientist at the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md. .

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians take responsibility for screening for postpartum depression. He says they should screen mothers for symptoms during routine checks of their babies in the first six months of life.

This is both because postpartum depression typically occurs during this time and because babies have frequent check-ups during these months, according to Putnick. Pediatricians are therefore, in a sense, best placed to detect symptoms of depression in mothers, she said.

On the other hand, pediatricians are also limited in what they can do. Mothers are not their patients, so they don’t have access to medical records to see the big picture – including whether a woman has a history of clinical depression. And they can only suggest that mothers follow up with their own provider.

“What happens after screening women?” said Dr Rahul Gupta, chief medical officer and medical officer of health for the nonprofit March of Dimes.

“The recommendation is excellent,” he said, referring to the AAP’s advice to pediatricians. “It’s a great starting point.”

But women’s primary care physicians need to be involved, Gupta said, especially since postpartum depression can persist or surface relatively later after childbirth.

For the new study, published online Oct. 27 in Pediatrics, The Putnick team used data on 4,866 women in New York State. All of them participated in a research project on the treatment of infertility and its impact on child development.

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