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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Postpartum Depression May Persist 3 Years After Giving Birth

Woman and baby in rocking chair, facing window

An NIH study of 5,000 women has found that approximately 1 in 4 experienced high levels of depressive symptoms at some point in the 3 years after giving birth.

An NIH study of 5,000 women has found that approximately 1 in 4 experienced high levels of depressive symptoms at some point in the 3 years after giving birth. The rest of the women experienced low levels of depression throughout the 3-year span. The study was conducted by researchers at NICHD. It appears in the journal Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians screen mothers for postpartum depression at well-child visits at 1, 2, 4 and 6 months after childbirth. Researchers identified four trajectories of postpartum depressive symptoms and the factors that may increase a woman’s risk for elevated symptoms. The findings suggest that extending screening for postpartum depressive symptoms for at least 2 years after childbirth may be beneficial, the authors write.

“Our study indicates that 6 months may not be long enough to gauge depressive symptoms,” said Dr. Diane Putnick, the primary author and a staff scientist in NICHD’s Epidemiology Branch. “These long-term data are key to improving our understanding of mom’s mental health, which we know is critical to her child’s well-being and development.”

The researchers analyzed data from the Upstate KIDS study, which included babies born between 2008 and 2010 from 57 counties in New York State. The study followed 5,000 women for 3 years after their children were born.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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