A recent study from Sweden published in the British Medical Journal found that women who experience depression during or after pregnancy are more likely to die from both natural and unnatural causes. The increased risk peaks in the month after diagnosis and increases up to 18 years. Women who develop perinatal depression, also known as depression during pregnancy or shortly after delivery, are twice as likely to die naturally or, in most cases, of unnatural causes. They are six times more committed than women without such depression. The risk increases within 30 days of diagnosis but remains elevated until 18 years later. These are the results of a large cohort study that used data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register, which effectively captures all births in Sweden since 1973.
Based on their study of women who gave birth live between 2001 and 2018, the researchers compared more than 86,500 women who were diagnosed with postpartum depression, either during pregnancy or up to one year after delivery, with more than 865,500 age-matched controls who gave birth at the same age. year “This is a cohort study, and although it cannot prove any causality, it is the largest and most comprehensive study in its field,” said King Shen, an affiliate researcher at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, and one of the lead authors. “I believe our research clearly shows that these women are at high mortality risk and that this is a very important issue,” of the study.
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The risk was greatest for women diagnosed with postpartum depression (depression after childbirth), which supports findings from previous small studies. Women diagnosed with antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy) have not been studied as much, so there is less of a knowledge base. Dr. Shen and her colleagues can now show that women with prenatal depression also have a higher risk of death, although not as much.
Comparing the risk of death among women with postpartum depression who had a mental health problem before pregnancy with women who did not, the researchers found that it was the same for both groups. “Our recommendation is therefore not to discontinue effective psychiatric treatment during pregnancy,” Dr. Shen said.
Women diagnosed with perinatal depression were born in the Nordic region and had a lower educational history and lower income than women without such a diagnosis. “One hypothesis is that these women seek help differently or are not offered postpartum screening services to the same extent, which means that their depression develops and worsens after it is detected,” said final author Donghao Lu, assistant professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine. , Karolinska Institutet. “Our view is that these women are particularly vulnerable and should be the focus of future interventions.”
However, rather than introducing new measures, Dr Lu, argues that it is a matter of making better use of those already in place. “Sweden already has many excellent tools, such as a postpartum questionnaire to screen for symptoms of postpartum depression,” says Donghao Lu. “We need to emphasize how important it is for all pregnant women to be screened both prenatally and postpartum and to receive the necessary, evidence-based care and support.”