PITTSBURGH, Dec. 5 -- Childbearing is a potent event in the lives of women, a particularly vulnerable time for developing or exacerbating psychiatric illness, say University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers in an editorial published in the Dec. 6 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The editorial, in response to a large Danish study of perinatal psychiatric episodes, calls for greater attention to the mental health of mothers and education, screening and treatment programs.
After giving birth, one in seven mothers will experience some form of depression that impairs their ability to function. Many of them will be undiagnosed and untreated. This creates a major public health problem, say leading experts from the University of Pittsburgh and University of California, San Diego.
Postpartum depression not only affects the mother. It touches the father, other children in the family and most importantly, the newborn, said Katherine L. Wisner, M.D., M.S., professor of psychiatry and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and an associate investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute. Knowing what we do about the risks of postpartum depression, we must recognize our responsibility to address this illness through improved research and greater access to care and services.
The Danish study, which is published in the same issue of the journal and authored by Trine Munk-Olsen and colleagues, represents the first large-scale epidemiological study of psychiatric illness during childbearing to be completed in more than 20 years. The researchers found that women were at much higher risk of hospitalization for psychiatric conditions in the three-month period after birth when compared to women who were 12 months postpartum. The risks were greatest for those giving birth to their first child.