New mothers who have a hard time breastfeeding are at greater risk to suffer symptoms of postpartum depression 2 months after giving birth and should be screened for depression, a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reports. Of nearly 2,600 mothers who breastfed, almost eight percent were positive for major depression two months postpartum, reporting symptoms including strong feelings of sadness, anxiety or helplessness that do not improve after a week and start to interfere with daily life.
The risk of depression was higher among women who had breast pain or generally "disliked" breastfeeding during the baby's first weeks of life, Reuters reports.
Depression during pregnancy was not factored into the study, and the lead researcher said further investigation is needed to tease out how much of the depressed women's symptoms can be directly attributed to breastfeeding difficulties:
Whether the breastfeeding difficulties are to blame is not clear, according to lead researcher Stephanie Watkins, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
A limit of the study, she told Reuters Health, is that there was no information on whether mothers had suffered depression during pregnancy.
So it could be that women who were already depressed had a tougher time with breastfeeding.
"Everything is harder when you're depressed," said Dr. Alison Stuebe, an obstetrician/gynecologist at UNC who also worked on the study. "It may be that some women were depressed during pregnancy, and that made breastfeeding harder."
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