Study: More new moms suffer from depression

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — In the dark days after her son was born, Kelly Modro remembers lying in bed listening to her baby cry. Unable to get up, she’d think, “Oh, my God, what did I do?”

“At first I thought it was just the hormones readjusting, but the feelings didn’t go away,” said the 25-year-old Monaca, Pa., resident of her postpartum depression. “I even thought our dog hated me for bringing a baby home. That’s how irrational I was.”

Though the National Institutes of Health estimates about 15 percent of new mothers such as Modro suffer from postpartum depression — defined as depressive episodes that impair maternal function — a major new study has found the numbers to be much higher and lasting longer than previously believed.

A national survey of 900 mothers by the nonprofit organization Childbirth Connection found that about a third reported that “their postpartum physical health or emotional health interfered at least ‘some’ with their ability to care for their baby.”

At six or more months after birth, “substantial proportions of mothers were still feeling stressed (43 percent), had problems with weight control (40 percent), experienced sleep loss (34 percent), lack of sexual desire (26 percent) and backache (24 percent),” said the study, the largest of its kind to date.

The survey, titled “Listening to Mothers II Postpartum,” has sought to shed light — and generate hard data — on a subject that many women have resisted talking about.

While most of the 4.3 million women who gave birth in 2007 — the largest number in years — bounded back from the stresses of delivery, a substantial number didn’t, said Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, which seeks to improve the quality of maternal health care.

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