The ‘Baby Blues’ is not uncommon as progesterone levels plummet but the symptoms usually decrease over time, particularly if the progesterone levels are restored with supplementation. However new research shows that the depression remains a long-term problem for a staggering 30 to 50 percent of affected women.
This report appeared in the January 2014 Harvard Review of Psychiatry and was carried out at the University of Leuven, Belgium. It highlights the need to take preventive action by all family members, not just the mother, if there is any concern there might be a tendency to depression.
It is critical to tackle the issue because parental depression can adversely affect children’s long-term development and the report also highlights the need for ongoing support during early childhood and beyond for the children of such mothers. Previous studies have reported that maternal depression can adversely affect child development, including cognitive and verbal abilities and school readiness.
In community-based studies, 30 percent of mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression were still depressed up to three years after delivery and women receiving medical treatment it was 50 percent so clearly this will affect their ability for effective engagement with, and care for, their children if they do not have sufficient support.
Who is affected most?
Clearly women with a previous history of depression before their pregnancy are at high risk, but some research has suggested that younger mothers, those with lower income, and more consistent evidence for other “contextual” risk factors. These included where the relationship with the woman’s partner was not secure or consistent, a history of sexual abuse in the mother, higher parental stress, and personality factors.
The role of progesterone
While progesterone levels are high throughout pregnancy to support the growth of the baby, the drop dramatically at the birth. Progesterone is know to elevate mood so it is not surprising that the sudden change can affect the mother adversely. Her emotional strength and resilience may be affected and certainly women with a history of depression are well advised to supplement immediately after the birth with bioidentical natural progesterone to prevent this sudden change in the body that can trigger post partum depression.
Maintaining good progesterone levels is also essential to help prevent miscarriage and reduce the rate of premature births.