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Child Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Postpartum Depressive Symptoms

Narrative

The birth of a child is a major life event that can be joyous, but also stressful, as a result of new demands and responsibilities. Hormonal changes and lack of sleep can contribute to “baby blues” or mild depressive symptoms, such as sadness, crying, irritability, and trouble concentrating, which are common and may last for a few days to a week or two.1 Postpartum depression occurs when these symptoms, including depressed mood and loss of interest in activities, are severe and last for more than two weeks.2, Other symptoms can include changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and suicidal thoughts. Postpartum depression can occur any time within the first year after childbirth.3

In 2009-2010, 11.8 percent of recent mothers in a 30-state area reported postpartum depressive symptoms since the birth of a child in the previous 2–9 months. Postpartum depressive symptoms were least common (8.1 percent) among mothers with at least 16 years of education as compared to mothers of all other educational groups. By maternal age, 14.6 percent of mothers aged 20-24 years experienced postpartum depression, compared to 10.2 percent of mothers 35 years or older (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Postpartum depressive symptoms also varied by race and ethnicity. The proportion of mothers reporting such symptoms varied between some racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native mothers (16.6 percent) were significantly more likely to report such symptoms as compared to non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander mothers (11.4 percent). Factors that may increase the risk of postpartum depression include previous depressive episodes, stressful life events, financial instability and limited social support.4,5

Early diagnosis and treatment are important as postpartum depression can interfere with maternal-infant bonding and child development.6 Treatment for postpartum depression may include both counseling and medications. Screening for depression is encouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both during and after pregnancy, particularly for women with a history of major depression.7

1 Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Depression During & After Pregnancy: A Resource for Women, Their Families, & Friends: Perinatal Depression—It’s More Than the Baby Blues. Accessed: 07/22/13.

2 Pearlstein T, Howard M, Salisbury A, Zlotnick C. Postpartum depression. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;200(4):357-364.

3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. Depression during and after pregnancy factsheet. Accessed: 7/22/13.

4 Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Depression During & After Pregnancy: A Resource for Women, Their Families, & Friends: Perinatal Depression—It’s More Than the Baby Blues. Accessed: 07/22/13.

5 Pearlstein T, Howard M, Salisbury A, Zlotnick C. Postpartum depression. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;200(4):357-364.

6 Pearlstein T, Howard M, Salisbury A, Zlotnick C. Postpartum depression. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;200(4):357-364.

7 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Screening for depression during and after pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 453. Obstet Gynecol 2010;115:394–5.

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Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

Depressive Symptoms by Education graph

This image is described in the Data section.

Depressive Symptoms by Race graph

Data

Postpartum Depressive Symptoms* Among Mothers with a Recent Live Birth, by Maternal Education, 2009-2010**

Percent of Mothers:

  • Less Than 12 Years 13.4
  • 12 Years 14.1
  • 13-15 Years 12.6
  • 16 Years or More 8.1
  • Total 11.8

*Defined as a sum of 10 or higher in response to 3 questions of how often the mother reported feeling down, depressed, or sad; hopeless; or slowed down since the birth of the baby, where 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=always.

**Includes data from a total of 30 states and New York City; 25 states contributed both years. Mothers completed surveys between 2 and 9 months postpartum.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2009-2010. Analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Postpartum Depressive Symptoms* Among Mothers with a Recent Live Birth, by Race/Ethnicity, 2009-2010**

Percent of Mothers:

  • Non-Hispanic White 11.7
  • Non-Hispanic Black 13.4
  • Hispanic 11.5
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 16.6
  • Non-Hispanic Asian 7.4
  • Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander 11.4
  • Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 14.8
  • Total 11.8

*Defined as a sum of 10 or higher in response to 3 questions of how often the mother reported feeling down, depressed, or sad; hopeless; or slowed down since the birth of the baby, where 1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=always.

**Includes data from a total of 30 states and New York City; 25 states contributed both years. Mothers completed surveys between 2 and 9 months postpartum.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2009-2010. Analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.