Background: Previous research has indicated that after delivery, many women suffer from prolonged periods of depression. New mothers, especially those that have previous mood disorders, or are from low socioeconomic statuses, or have low support from family and friends, are at a higher risk for being diagnosed with postpartum depression. There is research that suggests that postpartum depression effects breastfeeding, maternal health, and a child’s health. This research has indicated that postpartum depression is a vital public health issue, and screening, diagnosis, and treatment are not uniformly addressed to help reduce the prevalence of postpartum depression. There needs to be more effort put into reducing the stigma associated with postpartum depression, and increasing awareness, in new mothers and their support system, to help address the gaps that currently exist in helping postpartum mothers.
Methods: A comprehensive literature review of peer-reviewed journals (n=25) and websites was conducted to identify the relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding, maternal health, and child health. The review also included recognizing common tools used for screening and diagnosis, and accepted methods of treatment, as well as identifying common stigmas associated with postpartum depression.
Results: New mothers with postpartum depression showed to have breastfed less or none at all compared to mothers that were not depressed. Similarly, postpartum depression impacted the mother’s health in several ways, including making her more likely to develop depression and engage in risky and isolated behavior. Postpartum depression affected the child during maternal-infant bonding, and in later years of development, subjecting the child to increased behavioral and psychological issues. Screening and diagnosis were not uniform, and less than 10% of mothers received treatment. Stigma was high in most depressed mothers, especially those that had low support or were unaware of methods to receive help.
Conclusion: Breastfeeding, maternal health, and child health are impacted by postpartum depression, and screening, diagnosis, and treatment can help reduce prevalence rates for new mothers. Addressing the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental health issue, and the inability to care for your own child are big factors in seeking care for symptoms of postpartum depression. Awareness campaigns, physicians, and support systems can use strategies of openly talking about postpartum depression from early pregnancy and after delivery to help reduce a new mother’s likelihood of being diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Vedherey, MPHc, Niharika and Frasso, PhD, MSc, CPH, Rosemary, "Addressing Stigma by Increasing Awareness of Postpartum Depression" (2018). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 272.