By Margarita Nahapetyan
Low-income pregnant women and new mothers with diabetes have nearly double the risk of experiencing postpartum depression compared to women without the blood sugar disorder, reports a new study. Researchers revealed that approximately one in 10 of these women who had diabetes developed depression in the year following the delivery.
Postpartum depression is a serious, and often undiagnosed condition, many symptoms of which are being attributed to everyday struggles of being a new mother, as well as troubled relationships, domestic violence, financial problems, stressful life events, difficult pregnancy, lack of physical and emotional support, and health problems with the baby. Some mothers even develop irrational thoughts about harming an infant, or, just the opposite, become overly obsessed with the baby's health.
Depression during the last several months of pregnancy and the year following a childbirth, the so-called perinatal period, affects at least 10 to 12 per cent of new mothers, and approximately between 2 and 9 per cent of pregnancies are complicated by diabetes, according to the study. While previous studies have established a link between depression and diabetes, this research is the first to examine the connection in the context of pregnancy and motherhood.
The connection between postpartum depression among low-income women and diabetes was analyzed by Katy Backes Kozhimannil, M.P.A., of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston, and her colleagues. The experts looked at health records of 11,024 women who were enrolled in New Jersey's Medical program. All the women gave birth between July 2004 and September 2006. Factors such as age, race, year of delivery and preterm birth were taken into consideration.
The findings revealed that 15.2 per cent of women with diabetes, developed a condition in the first year after labor, compared with 8.5 per cent of women without diabetes. In women who had no indication of depression during their pregnancy, 9.6 per cent of those with diabetes developed depression, compared to 5.9 per cent of those without the blood sugar condition. In other words, pregnant women and new moms who had diabetes were approximately 55 to 60 per cent more likely to experience postpartum depression.
The authors wrote: "Pregnancy and the postpartum period represent a time of an increased vulnerability to depression. Treatable, perinatal depression is under-diagnosed, and it is important to target detection and support efforts toward women at high risk."
The researchers warned that the new findings do not establish that diabetes is the only cause of postpartum depression, they just note that the two are related. In addition, the information they used did not contain data on personal or family history of depression, women's weight or their BMI (body mass index). Also, it is not yet clear to what extent one can generalize findings from such a specific and localized population.
The experts concluded that studies which are aimed to examine the impact of interventions that affect the particularly vulnerable to postpartum depression individuals, could provide useful input to policy making. They said that careful and appropriate therapy and treatment are critical for those women who experience depression, have diabetes, or other health conditions, both mental and physical, that cause difficulties for the normal course of pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Everything must be done to ensure the health of both, the mother and the baby.