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Fatigue may be red flag for postpartum depression

University Park, Pa. A simple questionnaire on fatigue, administered two weeks after childbirth, may serve to identify women who at increased risk of developing moderate to severe postpartum depression according to Penn State researchers. "Postpartum depression affects up to 15 to 20 percent of new mothers," says Dr. Elizabeth Corwin, assistant professor, School of Nursing. "It comes on anywhere from two weeks to four months after childbirth and may last from two weeks to a year."

The researchers note that 50 to 80 percent of new mothers will have postpartum blues. However, this very common malady is mild and usually goes away on its own, although occasionally, postpartum blues can become postpartum depression. Less than a half percent of new mothers will develop postpartum psychosis, a very rare and very dangerous mental illness. Corwin and Ingrid Bozoky, a recent master's degree recipient, wanted to see if a connection between postpartum fatigue and postpartum depression exists. The researchers visited mothers recruited from Centre Community Hospital in State College, Pa., within 24 hours after they gave birth and then at 7, 14 and 28 days after their babies were born. As part of a larger study on immune system activation, the researchers collected urine samples, administered a simple, standard questionnaire about fatigue and on day 28, administered a standard questionnaire on depression.

"Women with high levels of fatigue on days 7 and 14 were significantly more likely to report symptoms of depression on day 28, than women with low levels of fatigue," Bozoky told attendees at the Scientific Session of the Eastern Nursing Research Society today (March 23) in University Park, Pa.

The simple 20-question questionnaire pinpointed 93 percent of the women who would suffer moderate to severe depression on day 28 using a cutoff score of 6 on the fatigue questionnaire. "A simple questionnaire used on day 14 after birth, which would correspond w
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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
23-Mar-2002


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