Maternal Depression , Beyond The Baby Blues Stage

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We normally associate maternal depression or the baby blues with mothers of young babies but according to a recent study, the baby blues can actually persist for much longer, particularly in women who are considered at a disadvantage, and when untreated, this depression can turn into a chronic condition.

The research also found that the depression could be alleviated fairly easily with brief cognitive behaviour therapy.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine asked 931 economically disadvantaged mothers to complete a depression questionnaire. The women who were then screened as positive for depression, which amounted to 45 percent, were asked to attend an interview to confirm that they were indeed suffering from depression.

Seventy one of the women with depression were than split into two groups with one group receiving six sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy and the other receiving case management. Their child’s social-emotional functioning was measured both before and after the treatment.

The most dramatic improvement was seen in those that were receiving Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and those with children under 4 whereas there was no significant change in those who had case management and had children over 4 years of age.

“Depression in underserved women of childbearing age is extremely common, and nearly one in five mothers of children older than 1 year of age reports moderate to severe depressive symptoms,” said Carol Weitzman, MD, who led the study.

“This finding reinforces that depression in mothers is not restricted to the postpartum period, and in fact after the postpartum period as children get older, the prevalence of maternal depression may be higher” said Weitzman.

When mothers suffering from depression are not treated, it’s not just the mother’s life that is negatively impacted, the health and development of the child can suffer too. Therefore mothers who are depressed should be identified and treated say the researchers, who also noted that as many women may not seek help specifically for depression, one way of identifying them would be when they bring their children to a clinic for routine check ups.

“A depressed parent can have a significant effect on a child” said Dr Weitzman. “Brief on-site treatment can help reduce symptoms of depression in a mother and may also improve her perspective about her child’s behavior.”

The results of this study were presented on 1st May at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Annual Meeting in Vancouver.

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