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15% Get Pregnancy-Related Depression

Women With History of Depression Are at Higher Risk for Postpartum Depression
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 28, 2007 -- Depression and pregnancy may not seem to go together, but a new study shows that more than one in seven women are depressed in the nine months before pregnancy, during their pregnancy, or in the nine months after giving birth.

The new research expands on information already known about depression after childbirth. "People have known for quite a while that postpartum depression is a serious, sometimes devastating event," says researcher Evelyn Whitlock, MD, MPH, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. "One of the things we were able to do is look across the spectrum -- nine months before pregnancy, the nine months of pregnancy, and the nine months postpartum. I think this is the first study to do that."

The results also seem to confirm that women with a history of depression are at higher risk for postpartum depression. "I think it's important that women realize that postpartum depression doesn't just come out of the blue," Whitlock tells WebMD. "About 54% of women [in the study] identified as having postpartum depression had also been identified either before or during pregnancy as being depressed."

The study, with an accompanying editorial urging more research, is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

(Have you felt depressed during your pregnancy? Talk about it on WebMD's Pregnancy: Friends Talking message board.)

Depression and Pregnancy

Whitlock and her colleagues evaluated 4,398 women, all members of the Kaiser Permanente HMO, who had given birth between 1998 and 2001.

Before pregnancy, 8.7% were identified as depressed by their health care providers; 6.9% were classified as depressed during the pregnancy, and 10.4% were depressed in the nine months after delivery. In all, 15.4%, or more than one in seven of the women, were depressed during at least one of the three periods.

About half of the women who had postpartum depression also were depressed before the pregnancy occurred or during pregnancy. More than half of those depressed before pregnancy became depressed during the pregnancy, suggesting the condition is not temporary or relieved by getting pregnant or by giving birth.

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