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Postpartum Depression Lingers for Many Mothers

Update Date: Jan 13, 2014 05:40 PM EST

Symptoms of postpartum depression linger for many mothers, according to a new study.

While postpartum depression improves over time, new research reveals that it remains for long periods of time in 30 to 50 percent of affected women.

After reviewing various studies on the psychological disorder, researchers found that 30 percent of affected mothers in community-based studies suffered symptoms up to three years after delivery. About 50 percent of affected women in clinical studies were depressed a year after delivery. Overall, the median rate of persistent depression was 38 percent.

Researchers said that the findings highlight the need for clinical care.

"Families with mothers suffering from postpartum depression need the engagement of clinicians who are sensitive to the signs of the depression potentially becoming chronic," researchers said in a news release.

Many studies show that maternal depression can negatively affect cognitive and verbal development in children.

"Because PPD has significant consequences for the baby, for the depressed mother, and for the early relationship between mother and child, knowledge about prolonged changes in the mental health of mothers with PPD may not only improve our understanding of the course of PPD, but also inform prevention and intervention strategies," researchers explained.

"Clinicians need to be aware of mothers' previous episodes of depression and possible contextual factors heightening vulnerability for a chronic course of depression," they concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

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