Caution Needed In Linking Perinatal Depression To Domestic Violence

As a clinical psychologist specializing in postpartum disorders, I’m continually reviewing research documents that explore this very serious, and all too common illness that affects some 800,000-900,000 American women every year.

So, when a recent study by PLOS, a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization, linked episodes of perinatal depression with domestic violence, naturally, my interest and curiosity peaked.

I greatly respect the group’s mission to accelerate progress in science and medicine by transforming research communication and by publishing information online and with access to all. And, I agree with their tenet that sharing research helps to find more effective treatments for diseases.

The organization’s latest findings, though, concern me because I fear readers might make a leap in judgment where it’s not warranted. Their researchers found that high levels of symptoms of perinatal depression, anxiety, and PTSD were “significantly associated with having experienced domestic violence.” While I concur that this discovery encourages maternity and mental health services to further address domestic violence, which in turn should improve health outcomes for women and their infants, I feel it is important to comment on their conclusions.

While I am strongly in favor of more research to study the various factors that contribute to perinatal depression, we must be cautious and not assume or interpret a causal relationship, where there is only a correlation. Although domestic violence is associated with perinatal depression, it’s crucial not to jump to the conclusion that all women who have pregnancy or postpartum depression are victims of domestic violence or that this is the primary influence which causes PPD.

My point: we must be cautious in making broad generalizations concerning the causes of perinatal illness. As readers of my book, “Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders,” are aware, there are many contributing factors for these mood and anxiety disorders, and couple strife can be one of the factors in the mix.

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~ by ppdsus on May 31, 2013.

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