Health Status > Maternal Health

Postpartum Depression

Depression is a major cause of disability among women, especially women of childbearing age. Pregnancy and the postpartum months are a period when women may be particularly vulnerable to both major and minor depression. Through a large study by the U.S. Department of Education, mothers with a child under one year of age were screened for depression based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D). They were categorized as having symptom levels that were either non-depressive, mildly depressive, moderately depressive, or severely depressive. Overall, approximately 59 percent of new mothers did not display any depressive symptoms, while almost one-quarter displayed mild depressive symptoms; 9.7 percent of mothers displayed moderate depressive symptoms, and 6.5 percent showed severe symptoms. Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, and non-Hispanic Asian mothers were the most likely to show no depressive symptoms, while non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaska Native mothers were most likely to show some depressive symptoms. The highest rate of moderate depressive symptoms occurred among non-Hispanic Black women (15.3 percent), while the lowest rate occurred among Hispanic women (8.3 percent). The highest rate of severe depressive symptoms was also among non-Hispanic Black women (10.2 percent), while the lowest rate was among non-Hispanic Asian women (4.3 percent).

With training, health care workers can screen women for major depression, although screening for mild depression is more difficult. Providing psychosocial support and counseling to pregnant women at risk of depression may be effective in decreasing symptoms.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.