Postpartum Depression Reported by One-Third of Mothers Abused During Pregnancy, Study Shows

   One out of three mothers who experienced abuse during pregnancy developed postpartum depression, according to data presented at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ 59th Annual Clinical Meeting in Washington, D.C.

   Mahua Mandal, MPH, and Diana Cheng, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, assessed the relation between physical, emotional, and sexual abuse during pregnancy and depression following birth. They used 2004–2008 data from the Maryland Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, an ongoing population-based survey of postpartum mothers. Depression was defined as women who reported “always” or “often” feeling either “depressed or hopeless” or “having little interest in doing things” since giving birth. 

   According to the researchers, postpartum depression was reported by 14.2% of mothers overall.  Strong associations were found between intimate partner abuse during pregnancy and postpartum depression, including being physically abused (36.3% reported feeling depressed), being threatened or made to feel unsafe (34.5%), feeling that daily activities were controlled (35.9%), feeling unsafe because of anger or threats (33.0%), and being forced to take part in sexual activity (30.8%).  Mothers who reported being abused during pregnancy were approximately two to three times more likely to report being depressed postpartum than women who didn’t report abusive relationships (P<0.0001).

   “Both health issues affect a significant proportion of reproductive-age women, and have far-reaching consequences for the physical and mental health of women themselves, as well as the health of their families,” the researchers concluded. “Healthcare professionals providing prenatal and postnatal care should be aware of the relation between violence and depression, and should screen women for both.”