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Postpartum depression part of new research from Utah Women & Leadership Project

By Genelle Pugmire - | May 5, 2023

Teresa Crawford, Associated Press

In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman at a hospital in Chicago.

The Utah Women & Leadership Project released a snapshot paper Friday exploring maternal mental health, specifically postpartum depression, among Utah women.

“Pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for a newborn are challenging. Most mothers naturally experience the ‘baby blues’ during the first two weeks after delivery, when they report feeling anxious, irritable, overwhelmed, or weepy,” reads the snapshot. “Usually, these symptoms resolve on their own within two weeks. Some women, however, experience mental health concerns beyond the baby blues, such as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.”

It is estimated that one in 10 women in the United States report postpartum depression symptoms according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Symptoms of depression interfere with daily life and can include feeling sadness, guilt or hopelessness; loss of interest in activities; changes in energy, sleep and appetite; irritability; difficulty concentrating; withdrawing from social relationships; and, sometimes, thoughts of hurting oneself or others, according to the research.

Research findings, which include data from the 2021 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitory System survey, suggest that 16.2% of Utah mothers report postpartum depression symptoms.

“A report based on 2017-2019 PRAMS data that found 42.8% of Utah women who delivered a live infant reported depression and/or anxiety symptoms before pregnancy, during the prenatal period, or during the postpartum period,” the research notes.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is a term used to encompass a range of disorders that can occur during pregnancy or up to one year after. PMADS often remain under-diagnosed and under-treated, according to the snapshot.

“Leaving these conditions untreated can have negative effects on the mother’s health, can affect the mother-infant relationship and the ongoing development of the child, and can increase societal costs,” the research team noted.

The team found higher risk of PMAD when the mother is unmarried, living at or below the federal poverty level, being enrolled in Medicaid, having no college education, receiving WIC services during pregnancy, having an unintended pregnancy or feeling ambivalence towards pregnancy.

“Other risk factors include lack of partner support, multiple life stressors, chronic disease, history of physical abuse, and experiencing a traumatic pregnancy, labor, or delivery,” researchers noted.

Adult Utah women have a higher lifetime prevalence of clinically diagnosed depression (32.1%) than adult men in the state (16%). According to the snapshot, one in 10 fathers will also experience symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety.

“From 2020-2021, 53.0% of Utah women with a live infant delivery were screened for depression before pregnancy, 75.0% were screened during the prenatal period, and 89.0% were screened during the postpartum period,” the report reads.

Organizations such as the Utah Women and Newborns Quality Collaborative are working to increase screening rates during the perinatal period. For example, the collaborative recently developed a PMADs toolkit for clinicians.

“Policymakers, women and partners, and friends and extended family can all play a role in understanding PMADs and helping support mothers experiencing mental health challenges,” the research team said.

Authors of the snapshot include; Rachel Denton (Licensed Social Worker), Sadie Wilde (Assistant Professor, Health & Wellness, Utah State University), and Madison Harmer (Graduate Research Assistant, Utah Women & Leadership Project).


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