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'Rethink' needed in approaches to maternal health

The authors of a new study into maternal depression said their findings make a "compelling" case for a rethink in approaches to how to support mothers.

Dr Hannah Woolhouse, psychologist and senior research officer said:

It is likely that current systems of maternal mental health surveillance in Australia and the UK will miss more than half the women experiencing depression in the early years of parenting.

In particular, women who do not have subsequent children may be especially vulnerable to falling through the gaps as they will not be reconnected back into primary care services.

There also needs to be a focus on social health and relationships as we have found a strong link between depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence.

First time mothers of one 'at higher risk of depression'

A new study of maternal health has found that depression is more common when a child is four after a first birth than at any time during the first 12 months of a baby's life. The study evaluated 1,507 women at three, six, 12, 18 months and four years after giving birth.

Researchers were alarmed to find that women with only one child at four years after birth showed significantly higher levels of depression than women with one or two children.

Contributing factors reported were:

  • Reporting depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy, or in the first 12 months after childbirth
  • Being a young mother, aged 18-24
  • Stressful life events in the year before the four year follow-up
  • Violence from a partner
  • Low income

But at four years after giving birth, 40% of women reporting depressive symptoms had not previously reported this.

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