The issue of postpartum depression is a worldwide concern. If viewed on the global scale, it affects tens if not hundreds of millions of women. The Science Direct reports that 121 million women are affected globally. The WHO concurs with these findings as it states that about 13% of women experience a mental disorder, primarily postnatal depression. In developing countries, the percentage stands higher at 19.8%.
In the United States, studies conducted by the CDC show that about 11-20% of women experience the symptoms of postnatal depression. This means that of the 4 million live births that occur every year, 600,000 of them develop postpartum depression. This is much more than the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, cervical cancer, and stroke combined. When the studies are narrowed down to specific states, the rates even go higher.
A more recent report filed in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report gave a more specific report in specific states. It showed that the overall prevalence rate is currently at 11.56%. There are huge disparities among countries with some like Illinois having 8% and 20% for Arkansas.
It is unfortunate that more than 40% of postpartum depression cases go undiagnosed and the women do not get appropriate help. Thus, a significant number of the cases go unreported and miss out on national and global statistics. Furthermore, most of the reports do not include postpartum depression that occurs after stillbirths or miscarriages. Therefore, postnatal depression is more common than we can account, and the burden is even higher for the mothers who suffer silently.
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Statistics for Predictors of Postpartum Depression
It has been previously proved that certain factors influence the likelihood of a woman developing postpartum depression
Having experienced postpartum depression in the previous pregnancy leads among the risk factors as it increases the likelihood by as high as 40-50%. If one has a history of any other mood or mental disorder not related to childbirth, the risk is 30-35%. Low socioeconomic status, poor access to education, and poverty are thought to account for 25%. This explains why the burden is even higher in low and middle-income countries.
Onset of Postpartum Depression
The highest percentage (66.5%) of the cases are reported in the early postnatal period (within four weeks) while the late postpartum period (beyond six weeks) accounts for about 22%. Some of the mothers (11.5%) start getting depressive symptoms in the antenatal period. It is therefore important for vulnerability screening to begin as early as before delivery and extend beyond the six weeks of puerperium, up to one year.
Statistics on Treatment
Overall, the success rate of professional treatment falls above 80%. However, it is disturbing to know that it is only 15% of women who seek professional help. The CDC attributes this disparity to the cost of treatment (54.8%), stigmatization (26.3%), lack of screening and lack of following through medication and psychotherapy (18.9%). Thousands of women and infants are at risk as lack of treatment results in chronic depression, psychosis and even harm to oneself or the baby.
Course of Postpartum Depression
One of the most noticeable results of postpartum depression is the mother-infant impaired bond. Depressed mothers generally show less attentiveness and interaction with their baby. The infants in most of the instances are unable to cope with this negative state. This negative effect interferes with the child’s cognitive ability and behavior development. A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry whose aim was to follow 11-year-olds born to mothers with postpartum depression showed that the children had significantly low IQs.
If the depression remains untreated or is severe, it may be manifested by harmful thoughts, suicidal ideations and attempts. About 19% of women screened positive for postpartum depression have these damaging thoughts, and some complete their mission of suicide. Suicidal deaths account for about 20% of postpartum mortalities, making it the second leading cause of fatalities among postnatal women. The safety of the infant is not spared as 4% of mothers with the severest form of depression are likely to cause harm and even death to their babies.
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