June 22, 2011

Feeling Down Mommy?

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Eating disorders or abuse may cause pregnancy-related depression

(dailyRx News) Bringing new life into the world usually brings happiness to mothers, but not all. Pregnancy-related depression is a real condition that can cause real distress for the mother and newborn baby.

Pregnancy-related depression is depression that occurs during or shortly after pregnancy (earlier than post-partum depression), and little is known about its causes. In a recent study, researchers may have found a link between pregnancy-related depression and eating disorders or history of abuse.

"Mental health screenings should be part of prenatal care."

A study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine (UNC) might offer doctors a new tool to diagnose pregnancy-related depression early on. Participants included 158 pregnant and postpartum (after childbirth) women who were being treated for depression.

About a third of the participants had a history of eating disorders as well as physical or sexual abuse. This finding suggests that women who have suffered from eating disorders or physical or sexual abuse may be more likely to develop pregnancy-related depression.

Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., director of UNC’s Perinatal Psychiatry Program, suggests that mental health screenings that include questions about eating disorders or abuse should become a standard part of prenatal care.

Eating disorders and abuse are much more common than people would like to think, says Dr. Meltzer-Brody. It's important that physicians learn more about this condition, she notes, because mothers who are depressed during or after pregnancy are more likely to have children with mental health problems or eating disorders.

Dr. Meltzer-Brody adds that pregnancy is an ideal time to support women needing mental health care because they are motivated to make changes and get the treatment they need for the sake of their unborn child.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
June 21, 2011

Last Updated:
April 25, 2012