Why Postpartum Depression Never Really Ends for Some Moms

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Updated March 2, 2017
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New research published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry found that though symptoms of postpartum depression decrease over time, depression still remains a long-term problem for 30 to 50 percent of affected women.

Led by Dr. Nicole Vliegen at the University of Leuven, Belgium, researchers performed a critical review of the research on postpartum depression from 1985 to 2012. They focused on the course of postpartum depression during follow-up visits. When researchers analyzed the data from follow-up studies of women with postnatal depression, they found that scores for depressive symptoms decreased over time — but never totally disappeared. When they analyzed community-based studies, they found that at least 30 percent of moms with postpartum depression were still depressed up to three years after delivery.

For patients receiving medical care, they found that 50 percent of women remained depressed throughout and, in most cases, beyond their first postnatal year. And when researchers looked at the median rates of persistent depression, they found that 38 percent of women were depressed one year later.

The researchers wrote, “Families with mothers suffering from postpartum depression need the engagement of clinicians who are sensitive to the signs of the depression potentially becoming chronic.” And because parental depression can adversely affect a child’s long-term development, Vliegen says that the study also highlights the ongoing need for support during early childhood and beyond for moms.

They added, “Clinicians need to be aware of mothers’ previous episodes of depression and possible contextual factors heightening vulnerability for a chronic course of depression.”

Did you suffer from postpartum depression? What tools helped you get through?

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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