Severe Postpartum Depression May Actually Start in Pregnancy

Postpartum depression happens to between 15-20 percent of mothers, and it affects each woman differently. A recent study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, has found a link between when a woman's symptoms set in and how severe her symptoms are—which may be the key in determining which women are at risk.

The study followed 8,200 mothers in seven different countries—some women were medically diagnosed, some were evaluated through a questionnaire, and others fell into both categories. The mothers were then split into smaller groups depending on the type of depression they suffered from: severe, moderate, and mild or clinically insignificant.

Researchers found that two-thirds of women who suffered from the most extreme symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, panic, and frequent crying, actually contracted these symptoms during pregnancy, reports the NY Times. Moderately depressed mothers typically reported their symptoms after childbirth.

Further research is needed to determine which biological factors contribute to postpartum depression—but Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the study's corresponding author and director of University of North Carolina's perinatal psychiatry program, believes this study could lead to answers about maternal depression.

"Ideally, you could determine who's at risk," she said. "What we do now is wait for people to get sick."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Is it just the baby blues or something more serious? Dr. Judy Greene describes the difference between the baby blues and the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Image: Woman holding pregnant belly via Shutterstock

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