Posted 24 July 2010 - 04:32 AM
Posted 24 July 2010 - 04:33 AM
While not all causes of PPD are known, a number of factors have been identified as predictors of PPD (the effect size is given in parentheses, where larger values indicate larger effects):
* Formula feeding rather than breast feeding (2.04)
* A history of depression (1.87) (.38 to.39) Beck (2001)
* Cigarette smoking (1.58)
* Low self esteem (.45 to. 47) Beck (2001)
* Childcare stress (.45 to .46) Beck (2001)
* Prenatal depression during pregnancy (.44 to .46) Beck (2001)
* Prenatal anxiety (.41 to .45) Beck (2001)
* Life stress (.38 to .40) Beck (2001)
* Low social support (.36 to .41) Beck (2001)
* Poor marital relationship (.38 to .39) Beck (2001)
* Infant temperament problems/colic (.33 to .34) Beck (2001)
* Maternity blues (.25 to .31) Beck (2001)
* Single parent (.21 to .35) Beck (2001)
* Low socioeconomic status (.19 to .22) Beck (2001)
* Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy (.14 to .17) Beck (2001)
Of these, three factors - formula feeding, a history of depression, and cigarette smoking - have been shown to be additive effects.
These factors are known to correlate with PPD. "Correlation" in this case means that, for example, high levels of prenatal depression are associated with high levels of postnatal depression, and low levels of prenatal depression are associated with low levels of postnatal depression. But this does not mean the prenatal depression causes postnatal depression—they might both be caused by some third factor. In contrast, some factors, such as lack of social support, almost certainly cause postpartum depression. (The causal role of lack of social support in PPD is strongly suggested by several studies, including O'Hara 1985, Field et al. 1985; and Gotlib et al. 1991.)
In addition to Beck’s meta-analysis cited above, other academic studies have shown a correlation between a mother’s race, social class and/or sexual orientation and postpartum depression. In 2006 Segre et al., conducted a study "on the extent to which race/ethnicity is a risk factor" for PPD. Studying 26,877 postpartum women they found that 15.7% were depressed. Of the women suffering from PPD, 25.2% were African American, 22.9% were American Indian/Native Alaskan, 15.5% were White, 15.3% were Hispanic, and 11.5% were Asian/Pacific Islander. Even when "important social factors such as age, income, education, marital status, and baby’s health were controlled, African American women still emerged with significantly increased risk for…PPD".
Segre et al., also found a correlation between a mother’s social class and PPD. Not surprisingly, women with fewer resources indicate a higher level of postpartum depression and stress than those with more financial resources. Rates of PPD decreased as income increased as follows:
Income PPD rate
Likewise, a study conducted by Howell et al. in 2006 confirms Segre’s findings that women who are nonwhite and in lower socioeconomic categories have more symptoms of PPD.
In a 2007 study conducted by Ross et al., lesbian and bisexual mothers were tested for PPD and then compared with a heterosexual sample. Ross et al. found that "lesbian and bisexual biological mothers had significantly higher Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) scores than the…sample of heterosexual women." The Ross study suggests that PPD may be more common among lesbian and bisexual mothers. From a study conducted in 2005 by Ross, the higher rates of PPD in lesbian/bisexual mothers than heterosexual mothers may be due to less "social support, particularly from their families of origin and…additional stress due to homophobic discrimination" in society.
Although profound hormonal changes after childbirth are often claimed to cause PPD, there is little evidence that variation in pregnancy hormone levels is correlated with variation in PPD levels: Studies that have examined pregnancy hormone levels and PPD have usually failed to find a relationship (see Harris 1994; O'Hara 1995). Further, fathers, who are not undergoing profound hormonal changes, suffer PPD at relatively high rates (e.g., Goodman 2004). Finally, all mothers experience these hormonal changes, yet only about 10–15% suffer PPD. This does not mean, however, that hormones do not play a role in PPD. For example, in women with a history of PPD, a hormone treatment simulating pregnancy and parturition caused these women to suffer mood symptoms. The same treatment, however, did not cause mood symptoms in women with no history of PPD. One interpretation of these results is that there is a subgroup of women who are vulnerable to hormone changes during pregnancy. Another interpretation is that simulating a pregnancy will trigger PPD in women who are vulnerable to PPD for any of the reasons indicated by Beck's meta-analysis (summarized above).
Profound lifestyle changes brought about by caring for the infant are also frequently claimed to cause PPD, but, again, there is little evidence for this hypothesis. Mothers who have had several previous children without suffering PPD can nonetheless suffer it with their latest child (Nielsen Forman et al. 2000). Plus, most women experience profound lifestyle changes with their first pregnancy, yet most do not suffer PPD.
Sometimes a pre-existing mental illness can be brought to the forefront through PPD . It is widely found in women whose families have a history of mental illnesses and disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism, and above-average rates of drug addiction and alcoholism.
In 2009, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, reported that the levels of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) during the 25th week of pregnancy may help predict a woman's chances of developing postpartum depression .
 Evolutionary psychological hypothesis
Human infants require an extraordinary degree of care. Lack of support from fathers and/or other family member will increase the costs borne by mothers, whereas infant health problems will reduce the evolutionary benefits to be gained (Hagen 1999). If ancestral mothers did not receive enough support from fathers or other family members, they may not have been able to afford raising the new infant without harming any existing children, or damaging their own health (nursing depletes mothers' nutritional stores, placing the health of poorly nourished women in jeopardy).
For mothers suffering inadequate social support or other costly and stressful circumstances, negative emotions directed towards a new infant could serve an important evolved function by causing the mother to reduce her investment in an unaffordable infant, thereby reducing her costs. Numerous studies support the correlation between postpartum depression and lack of social support or other childcare stressors (Beck 2001; Hagen 1999).
Mothers with postpartum depression can unconsciously exhibit fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions toward their children, are less responsive and less sensitive to infant cues, less emotionally available, have a less successful maternal role attainment, and have infants that are less securely attached; and in more extreme cases, some women may have thoughts of harming their children (Beck 1995, 1996b; Cohn et al. 1990, 1991; Field et al. 1985; Fowles 1996; Hoffman and Drotar 1991; Jennings et al. 1999; Murray 1991; Murray and Cooper 1996). In other words, most mothers with PPD are suffering some kind of cost, like inadequate social support, and consequently are mothering less.
In this view, mothers with PPD do not have a mental illness, but instead cannot afford to take care of the new infant without more social support, more resources, etc. Treatment should therefore focus on helping mothers get what they need.
Posted 24 July 2010 - 04:34 AM
Early identification and intervention improves long term prognoses for most women. Some success with preemptive treatment has been found as well. A major part of prevention is being informed about the risk factors, and the medical community can play a key role in identifying and treating postpartum depression. Women should be screened by their physician to determine their risk for acquiring postpartum depression. Currently, Alberta is the only province in Canada with universal PPD screening which has been in place since 2003. The PPD screening is carried out by Public Health nurses in conjunction with the baby's immunization schedule. Also, proper exercise and nutrition appears to play a role in preventing postpartum, and general, depression.
Posted 24 July 2010 - 04:35 AM
Numerous scientific studies and scholarly journal articles support the notion that postpartum depression is treatable using a variety of methods. If the cause of PPD can be identified, as described above under “social risk factors,” treatment should be aimed at mitigating the root cause of the problem, including increased partner support, additional help with childcare, cognitive therapy, etc.
Women need to be taken seriously when symptoms occur. This is a two-fold practice: First, the postpartum woman will want to trust her intuition about how she is feeling and believe that her symptoms are real enough to tell her significant other, a close friend, and/or her medical practitioner; erring on the side of caution will go a long way in the treatment of PPD. Second, the people in whom she confides must take her symptoms seriously as well, aiding her with treatment and support. Partners, friends and physicians may notice changes in a postpartum mother that she may not. Knowing that PPD is treatable with a variety of methods can make persistence in seeking treatment easier.
Various treatment options include:
* Medical evaluation to rule out physiological problems
* Cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of psychotherapy)
* Possible medication
* Support groups
* Home visits/Home visitors
* Healthy diet
* Consistent/healthy sleep patterns
An experienced medical professional will work with a postpartum mother to develop a treatment plan that is right for her. This plan may include any combination of the above options, and might include some discussion or feedback from/with a partner. If a woman suffering from PPD does not feel she is being taken seriously or is being recommended a treatment plan she does not feel comfortable with, she will want to seek a second opinion.
A 1997 study conducted by Appleby et al., confirms that postpartum depressed mothers’ symptoms promptly improved at similar rates when treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or the antidepressant fluoxetine. “A group of 61 depressed mothers completed a 12-week treatment program with or without the antidepressant plus one session versus six sessions of counseling.” Improvement followed after “one to four weeks of either treatment.” The findings of Appleby et al.’s study conclusively showed that combining counseling with drug therapy did not add to the improvement of just drug therapy or just counseling. This suggests that counseling is equally as effective a treatment for PPD as medication, and that the “the choice of treatment [psychotherapy vs. medication] may…be made by the women themselves”. Other forms of therapy (like group therapy and home visitors) are also effective treatments for PPD.
A woman will want to discuss the various treatment options available with her physician and, if considering drug therapy, should speak about which medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Treatment for PPD can reduce the length of suffering and its severity. Untreated, the Baby Blues may go away on its own (and does in most cases). PPD may or may not go away without treatment. Speaking to a health care provider as soon as symptoms occur is the safest way to ensure prompt treatment and return to normal life.
According to The National Institutes of Mental Health, studies show that the childbearing years are when a woman is most likely to experience depression in her lifetime. Approximately 15% of all women will experience postpartum depression following the birth of a child. (Chasse, J). When the mental health of the mother is compromised, it affects the entire family. (Postpartum Support International).