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Published on March 27, 2014

What Increases Chances of Postpartum Depression?

Having a new baby can elicit all kinds of conflicting emotions; it’s normal for parents to experience excitement and fear all at the same time. Although it typically takes parents only a few weeks to adjust, not all women are able to transition into the role of a parent with ease—in fact, some women may develop postpartum depression as a result. Although this only occurs among a small percentage of women, a recent study found that those who had unwanted pregnancies were more likely to become depressed.

The effects of unintended pregnancies on postpartum depression (PPD) are striking. Mothers who either mistimed the pregnancy or weren’t planning it at all were four times more likely to suffer from depression a year after the baby was born. Researchers also believe that these moms were also more likely to be depressed for the long-term, since the risk of post-delivery depression was high so long after childbirth.

“If someone has an unintended pregnancy, we know to watch for postpartum depression,” said Dr. Robert Michaelson, an OB/GYN specialist at Abington Memorial Hospital. Even still, he’s not alarmed by these findings— most people aren’t happy when thrown into any kind of unexpected medical condition. “The bigger thing about unintended pregnancies is that they’re treated as a high risk situation because they can cause premature delivery, low birth rate, and other complications.” Unplanned pregnancies are associated with high-risk pregnancy behaviors, such as poor prenatal care, low birth rate, and increased medical costs.

In addition to not being ready to have a baby, there are a variety of reasons why some women experience PPD.

For some, parenting doesn’t come easily. And when they become frustrated with their inability to take care of their baby and be happy, they become even angrier.  

Other risk factors that may contribute to depression include stress, financial issues, relationship problems, and prior mental issues, such as anxiety. And women aren’t the only ones who experience postpartum depression—men can have it too.

“When I see patients for their
first encounter in the hospital, I always ask about their mood, how they’re managing things, if they’re feeling overwhelmed, and so on,” said Dr. Michaelson. “It’s a subtle way to assess how mom and dad are handling the new baby, and if they’re showing signs of depression.”

So what can new moms and dads do to make sure their mental health needs are being met?

One thing they can do is to learn the warning signs and seek help from a doctor as soon as possible if they or their loved one starts showing symptoms of PPD. While treatment options vary for each individual case, a prescription isn’t always necessary. Many find relief in resolving their stress factors. And sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting their partner to understand that they need help.

But above all, Dr. Michaelson emphasized the need for new moms to understand that it’s okay if they develop a disorder. “Just as you wouldn’t be upset if you got a cold, there’s nothing wrong with having depression. You just can’t be afraid of getting help, because that’s the most important thing.”

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