Different Types of Post-Baby Suffering

Postpartum depression and domestic abuse often occur together

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) There is more than one way to hurt after having a baby. Postpartum depression is a real and serious condition. So is abuse from your partner, and the two are linked.

A recent study found that woman are more likely to have postpartum depression if they are also abused by their partner.

"Depressed or being abused? Tell someone."

The study, led by Benjamin D. Kornfeld, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics in Children's Memorial Hospital at Northwestern University in Chicago, was based on women who came in for well-child visits and were screened for postpartum depression and domestic abuse.

The researchers screened all women who came into a city primary care clinic between February and March of 2008 with their newborn, 2-month, 4-month or 6-month old babies.

They analyzed the women's demographic factors, such as age and race/ethnicity, and the women's responses to a screening questionnaire designed to find out if they were experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or if they were exposed to violence from their significant others.

They also tracked whether the women came in with the babies at all the children's well-child visits through their second birthday.

In addition, the researchers tracked how much the women brought their children to urgent care or the emergency room until age 2.

Among the 173 women screened, 26 percent had symptoms of postpartum depression, and 7 percent were victims of intimate partner violence.

The women had been screened at their first visit and at follow-ups, and most of the findings of postpartum depression or domestic violence came from their first visits.

More than half — about 60 percent — of the women who had experienced abuse from their partner also had symptoms for postpartum depression.

There was no difference among the women in coming to well-child visits up to age 2, regardless of whether they had postpartum depression or violence at home.

But the children of women who had postpartum depression did use the emergency department more.

The authors concluded that there is a high rate of postpartum depression among mothers who have experienced domestic abuse.

LuAnn Pierce, a clinical social worker in Colorado, said other research has already shown that women are at a higher risk for domestic abuse during pregnancy and after their child is born.

"Presumably, this startling fact is attributed to the woman's divided loyalties as parenting no longer allows for her partner or spouse to be the primary recipient of her attention," Pierce said.

"Coupled with the hormonal changes that accompany childbirth, sleep deprivation and the additional stress of having a newborn in the home, postpartum depression is quite frequent," she said.

Pierce recommends that women with a history of abuse or depression develop a "safety plan" with their OB/GYN early in their pregnancy.

"A safety plan that identifies all contingencies for the last months leading up to delivery and the months following delivery are usually most successful," she said. This includes consulting with a mental health professional and considering medication options.

The study was published in the August issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

The research was funded by a grant from the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 26, 2012
Last Updated:
September 3, 2012