Talking about post-natal depression

19 January 2009


Post-natal depression affects a significant proportion of new mothers. Some studies suggest one in twenty may be affected, while others show it could be as high as one in four. Not only can this be a problem for the mother, but it can also have an impact on her child and its care, and in the worst cases can lead to women taking their own lives.  New mums with post-natal depression may be offered anti-depressants, but many don't want to take them, especially if they're breastfeeding.

BabyNow researchers from the University of Toronto have discovered that talking things through with someone who understands what you're going through can cut the chances of post-natal depression by around half.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Cindy-Lee Dennis and her team used a web-based tool to screen more than 21,000 new mothers in the Canadian province of Ontario, to find those who seemed to be at risk of developing post-natal depression. Then they recruited around 700 women, and divided them randomly into two groups. One group got standard post-natal care, while the other group got the same care, but also had telephone support from a volunteer who had also gone through post-natal depression.

The researchers found that the mums who got support over the phone had half the risk of developing depression three months after their birth than the women who just got standard care.  And eight out of ten of them said they were happy with it, and would recommend it to a friend. Dr Dennis says that women and their families need to know more about post-natal depression, and that putting new mums at risk in touch with women who've been through it could be a significant way to help. But this needs doctors, nurses, midwives and other health professionals to be aware of the risks an symptoms, so they can offer the right support at the right time.


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