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Postpartum depression risk higher among mothers with unintended pregnancies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sometimes a woman finds herself pregnant when she wasn't planning on it. Women with unintended pregnancies may benefit from support and being aware of postpartum depression risks.

A recent study found that mothers who did not intend to become pregnant were at a higher risk for postpartum depression than mothers who planned to become pregnant.

The study did not focus on whether there were any positive or negative long-term effects of unintended pregnancy.

Instead, the study's findings simply revealed how important it is for all women to be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression, especially if becoming pregnant was not originally part of their plans.

"Seek help for postpartum depression."

The study, led by Rebecca J. Mercier, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina, looked at whether a woman's intention to have a pregnancy influenced her postpartum depression risk.

The researchers asked 688 women when they were 15 to 19 weeks pregnant whether they had intended to become pregnant or not.

The answers fell into one of three categories: intended pregnancies, mistimed pregnancies (unexpected but not unwanted) and unwanted pregnancies.

Then the mothers were screened for postpartum depression when their children were 3 months old and 1 year old. Only 550 women from the study were included in the 1-year-old assessment.

The results showed that women who had not intended to become pregnant were about twice as likely to experience postpartum depression by the time their child was 3 months old.

When their child was 1 year old, women who had not planned to become pregnant were at 3.6 times higher risk for postpartum depression.

When the researchers adjusted their analysis to account for differences in the women's age, poverty level and education level, the risk for women having unintended pregnancies to experience postpartum depression was two times higher than the risk for women with intended pregnancies at 1 year after the child's birth.

These findings do not mean a mother or her child will suffer long-term because the pregnancy was or was not planned.

Instead, it means that women who did not expect to become pregnant may need to be more conscious of the symptoms of postpartum depression.

If they find themselves experiencing those symptoms, they should seek the help of a caregiver, such as their OB/GYN, certified nurse midwife or a therapist.

"Unintended pregnancy may have a long-term effect on maternal wellbeing," the authors wrote. They suggested that screening for depression during and after the pregnancies of women with unintended pregnancies may help with treatment when it's needed.

The study was published May 8 in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 14, 2013
Last Updated:
October 16, 2013