postpartum depression Statistics show the disorder is extremely common. In the US alone, the Centers for Disease Control reports that between 11-20% of new mothers will suffer from the condition. This equates to approximately 600,000 women per year.
However, these figures only account for the numbers of women who were diagnosed and sought treatment; it’s thought that many women suffer in silence due to various reasons such as the stigma of admitting to symptoms or not wanting to admit they are struggling. It’s also been shown that women who miscarry or have a stillbirth can develop Postpartum Depression too, yet these women are not recognised in statistical analysis. In the US, approximately 15 million pregnancies are registered each year so including the numbers of miscarriages and stillbirths takes the number of women potentially suffering PPD to around 900,000.
Postpartum Depression is more common than many other illnesses and in the course of a year, more women will suffer from it than the combined number of new cases in men and women for conditions such as epilepsy, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia and multiple sclerosis.
Statistically speaking, it’s also been shown that certain factors can influence whether women will develop Postpartum Depression such as:
- Living in high poverty areas – the rates of PPD can be as high as 25%
- Previous history of mental health difficulties
- Lack of family or social support
- Having a difficult or excessively painful birth
- Not having an epidural
- Having experienced PPD during a previous pregnancy or birth – the rates of PPD in this group can be as high as 41%
- Being a young or teen mother
- Having a fear of childbirth – a Finnish study showed that women who were afraid of giving birth were three times more likely to develop PPD
- The baby suffering from a birth defect or disability
- Having an emergency Caesarean section
- Having twins or triplets
- Having a premature birth
A study carried out by researchers at the University of North Carolina however, showed that not all women will experience Postpartum Depression in the same way. After studying data from 10,000 women, they concluded that the symptoms could be broken down into three levels of severity. It was shown that women who started experiencing symptoms of PPD during pregnancy went on to develop the most severe form of the illness.
It’s not just women who can suffer the devastation of Postpartum Depression. Research has shown that approximately 4% of fathers will suffer depression in the first year of their child’s life and by the time the child is 12, 21% will have suffered one or more episodes of depression. Statistical risk factors for Dads include:
- being a young parent
- previous history of depression
- having a lower level of education and income
- A sense of being excluded from the relationship between the baby and the mother
- A poor relationship with your partner or your own parents
- Non-standard family relationship such as being a step-father
- stress about becoming a father
Surprisingly, it has been shown in research by James F. Paulson PhD at Eastern Virginia Medical School that male PPD has a much more negative effect on the development of a child’s vocabulary than that suffered by women. His study showed that although both male and female PPD resulted in parents being less likely to engage in activities such as reading and storytelling, it was only the father’s lack of interaction which affected the child. Paulson revealed that at 24 months old, “if the dads were depressed and didn’t read to them, the infants had a much smaller vocabulary”, whereas there was no correlation between the mother’s lack of reading and the child’s command of words. However, it has been shown that other aspects of child development can be affected by a woman suffering PPD, such as brain pathway development and cognitive and social skills. The child may also be more likely to exhibit fussy behaviour or withdraw.
As with women, men can also find it difficult to admit they are suffering from depression and to recognise it as PDD. They are generally less likely than women to acknowledge their symptoms or to ask for help and are more likely to try and hide it or withdraw from others.
Untreated Postpartum Depression can have severe long-term consequences with 30% of women remaining ill a year after the birth if they do not receive treatment and 50% suffering symptoms 2 years after having a child.
Despite these shocking statistics, Postpartum Depression is a highly treatable illness which many people make a full recovery from. For information and advice on treatments and medications please read the related articles below.
- What is Postpartum Depression?
- Causes of Postpartum Depression
- Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
- Treatments for Postpartum Depression
- Medications for Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Depression Statistics
- What is Paternal Postpartum Depression?