Postnatal depression more likely 4 years after birth

First-time mothers are more likely to report being depressed four years after giving birth than at any other time during the child's first year, according to researchers at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The research study led by Dr. Hannah Woolhouse and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology was based on more than 1,500 women who gave birth in six public hospitals in Melbourne, Australia. Results show that almost one in three women reported depressive symptoms in the first four years after birth. The prevalence of depressive symptoms at four years postpartum was 14.5 percent, and was higher than at any time-point in the first 12 months postpartum.

Dr. Woolhouse said the findings contradicted the prevailing view that mothers were most vulnerable to depression in the first couple of months after giving birth. ''This is one of the first large studies to report the prevalence over time of maternal depression in first-time mothers from pregnancy to four years' postpartum,'' she said.

The strongest predictor of depressive symptoms at four years postpartum was having previously reported depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth. Other factors associated with depressive symptoms were; young maternal age (18-24 years), stressful life events in the year prior to the fourth year follow-up, intimate partner violence, and low income.

Dr Heather Rowe Senior Research Fellow at Jean Hailes Research Unit states "Postnatal depression" usually refers to mental health problems that occur in the year after giving birth, so this study is unusual because women were followed up until 4 years after birth. “The paper confirms that being in an abusive partner relationship harms women's mental health".

If experiencing any depressive symptoms please call the National Perinatal Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 (Monday to Friday 10am – 5pm) or if you would like further information on postnatal depression click here.

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