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Blue -- Before, During And After Pregnancy

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The baby blues affect about 80 percent of postpartum women, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and as many as a quarter of them may suffer from more serious forms of depression. A new study suggests that attention also needs to be focused on depression that occurs before and during pregnancy.

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Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, with funding support and collaboration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied 4,398 women who gave birth to live babies between 1998 and 2001.

Of those, 8.7 percent were identified from medical records as being depressed in the nine months before pregnancy, 6.9 percent during pregnancy and 10.4 percent in the nine months after childbirth.

About one in seven women were treated for depression during those three periods.

Many of them showed recurring indicators for depression. More than half of the women who suffered from postpartum depression had been diagnosed with depression before or during their pregnancies, according to the study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

And more than half of those depressed before they were pregnant also became depressed during pregnancy when, the authors write, the challenge is to balance "the treatment needs of women and the risk of harm to the fetus."

"The postpartum period may be a particularly stressful time for women," said Evelyn Whitlock, co-author of the study and a senior investigator at Kaiser.

But the new study raises the question of whether postpartum depression is a unique form of the illness, Whitlock said, or part of a continuum of depressive illness that needs to be managed "throughout the reproductive age and the whole life cycle."

-- Frances Stead Sellers


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