Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perinatal Depression

I get a lot of studies and abstracts that come across my desk on the internet everyday. When I find one that is sent by the Journal of Women's Health, I do not delete it. It is always well researched and has an important message. The latest was entitled Eating Disorders and Trauma History in Women with Perinatal Disordes.

This article specifically addresses the need for comprehensive mental health evaluation at the onset of pregnancy. This may be of critical importance to the wellbeing of the mother, infant and whole family. There are specific risk factors that should be identified as early as possible: of course, a previous history of depression or a family history of depression; this study reveals the comorbity of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulemia and binge eating. The article also examines trauma and abuse and how that may relate to the eating disorders and thus perinatal depression.

Perinatal depression is specific to the entire pregnancy and to the immediate postpartum, which is defined as the first six months in this study. I am used to the definition being broader, at the first twelve months. In any case, perinatal depression is documented as occurring in ten percent of all pregnant women.

That is a huge number that doesn't stop with the woman, but affects the entire nuclear family and beyond to even the extended family. The ultimate responsibility must rest with the patient. If you have a history of any abuse or eating disorders, please report this to your provider as a potential risk factor for perinatal depression. The question is often raised at the initial perinatal visit and the importance isn't stressed. Now you know how important it is. The only shame is in withholding information that could make a big difference for you and your family. With parenthood comes grave responsibilities.