How More Screening Might Help New Moms

Postpartum depression may develop later than initial screening in some women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When does the risk period for postpartum depression end? Maybe not as soon after giving birth as once thought.

Screening for postpartum depression (PPD) at six and 12 months postpartum may identify women with late-onset PPD who appeared healthy at earlier checkpoints.

"PPD is often overlooked by new mothers and their families assuming the symptoms are due to the many new stresses and responsibilities that come with motherhood," said lead author Barbara P. Yawn, MD, of Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester, MN, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Prolonged sadness, lack of interest in doing things, limited interest or even no interest in the baby and other things that you always enjoy should not be ignored. Ask your doctor or other health professional for help."

Many new mothers experience postpartum mood swings, but PPD is a serious form of depression that can also occur. There are many symptoms, but the most common are persistent sadness and hopelessness, lack of pleasure from daily activities and trouble bonding with the baby. PPD affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of postpartum women.

A past study showed that although PPD levels decreased in new moms at 32 weeks, they rose again at 52 weeks. To study late-onset PPD, Dr. Yawn and colleagues screened 1,801 women at four to 12 weeks, six months, and 12 months postpartum.

Patients in this study answered a survey designed to identify depression. In the initial four to 12 weeks, 20 percent of these women reported symptoms of PPD.

At the six-month checkpoint, 11 percent of the previously healthy women showed signs of PPD. At the 12-month checkpoint, an additional 6 percent appeared to have PPD.

Together, the six- and 12-month checkpoints identified an additional 193 women (14 percent) with PPD who had tested normally at the four to 12 weeks checkpoint.

Dr. Yawn and team suggested that more screening throughout the first year may identify more women in need of care.

"This study reminds us that PPD usually begins in the first few months of motherhood but can appear up to a year later," Dr. Yawn said. "Help is available!"

This study was published online May 11 in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality funded this research. Dr. Yawn and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 11, 2015
Last Updated:
May 19, 2015