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Research Indicates Postpartum Depression Can Last For 3 Years

Oct 27, 2020
Originally published on October 27, 2020 6:14 am
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Becoming a mother is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman's life, but an estimated 1 in 7 women suffer from depression in the postpartum period. Now a new study in the Journal Pediatrics finds that postpartum depression can last for as long as three years. NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee reports.

RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: Researchers followed about 5,000 mothers in New York state and screened them for symptoms of depression at four different times - four months, one year, two and three years after childbirth. A quarter of the women had elevated symptoms over the course of the three years. Diane Putnick is a staff scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the main author of the study. She says one group of mothers started out with medium symptoms and improved overtime.

DIANE PUTNICK: I think a lot of people think that that's what postpartum depression is, that you have this medium - kind of these postpartum blues, but then they just kind of gradually get better overtime.

CHATTERJEE: But, she says, a small but significant number of moms had persistently high levels of symptoms the entire time. Another group, she says, started out fine, but...

PUTNICK: They got worse and worse. And by the time they were 36 months, they looked a lot like that high-persistent depressed group.

CHATTERJEE: To women who are struggling with depression months after giving birth, Putnick says, you're not alone.

PUTNICK: There's still lots of moms who have unresolved symptoms, and that's OK.

CHATTERJEE: But it's important to seek help, says Jennifer Payne, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University who wasn't involved with the new study.

JENNIFER PAYNE: If you're concerned that someone might be depressed or that your self might be depressed, please reach out, get screened, get treated.

CHATTERJEE: And getting treatment may be even a little easier these days, she says, because most providers are doing virtual visits.

PAYNE: You don't have to drive somewhere and park and walk, et cetera.

CHATTERJEE: She says there's evidence mothers who get treatment do recover. Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.