New Report Suggests PPD Can Become Long-term Problem If Untreated

First here’s the good news, and then the bad: According to research recently published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, the symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) typically decrease over time. But, and that’s a big but, the illness “remains a long-term problem for 30 to 50 percent of affected women.”

These findings led the authors of their study to urge intervention by qualified physicians, saying it’s crucial to prevent the depression from becoming long-term.

Intervention and treatment must continue beyond newborns, the researchers add “because parental depression can adversely affect children’s long-term development.”

In the report, the authors explained how they reviewed much of the research on postpartum depression from the year 1985 to 2012. While scores for depressive symptoms decreased over time, they found that 30 percent of mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression were still depressed up to three years after delivery.

Some records suggested that certain populations were at risk for chronic postpartum depression. These comprise “younger mothers, those with lower income, and minority women.”

Other risk factors, which they termed “contextual” included, “lower quality of the partner relationship, a history of depression or sexual abuse in the mother, higher parental stress, and personality factors.”

As always, I’m grateful for this type of research, which reinforces what I have observed in my clinical practice, that is: there is an increased risk for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), aka postpartum depression, to turn into a chronic depression problem when women are unable or unwilling to receive early intervention and treatment. If the depression goes unattended, at times worsening, the illness can cause a negative ripple effect in the mother’s relationships with her baby, her other children, and even the couple relationship.

An article I read years ago, that was published in the British Journal, Lancet, stated that some 25% of women who don’t get treatment for postpartum depression, won’t get better and sadly, end up with a chronic mood disorder.

On a positive note, I do find that if women are identified and treated early — especially when helped by mental health providers who have expertise in this area of perinatal illness– they can recover quickly.

The bottom line is women should not take a chance, but instead get care as early as possible. This timetable helps ensure better health for the woman, the couple relationship and the whole family.


~ by ppdsus on January 28, 2014.

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