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Postpartum Depression Often Becomes Chronic

May become chronic in up to 50 percent of women with postpartum depression

Postpartum Depression Often Becomes Chronic

THURSDAY, Jan. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Postpartum depression can become chronic in 30 to 50 percent of women with the condition, according to a review published in the January issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Nicole Vliegen, Ph.D., from the University of Leuven in Belgium, and colleagues identified and reviewed 23 studies published between 1985 and 2012 on the course of postpartum depression and factors implicated in chronic postpartum depression.

The researchers found that, although the median rate of persistent postpartum depression was 38 percent, the rate was 30 percent in women in the community and about 50 percent in women receiving medical care. Some studies suggested that the risk of chronic postpartum depression was higher in younger mothers, those with lower incomes, and minority women. The risk was also higher when the quality of the partner relationship was low, the mother had a history of depression or sexual abuse, and parental stress was high, as well as due to personality factors. Illnesses in the infant did not appear to be associated with chronic postpartum depression.

"In sum, families with mothers suffering from postpartum depression need the engagement of clinicians who are sensitive to the signs that the depression may become chronic," Vliegen and colleagues write.

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