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What are the factors that put moms at a higher risk of postpartum depression?

A new survey analyzed the responses of one million new moms, revealing who is at a higher risk of developing the pregnancy complication.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Every year in the United States, 900,000 women suffer from postpartum depression. PPD is the most common pregnancy complication, even higher than gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which is serious high blood pressure. Now, researchers have identified moms at the highest risk for developing PPD.

It’s supposed to be an amazing time – the first days and weeks of snuggling a newborn. But sometimes, women feel sad, and for some, those feelings linger. Health experts say postpartum depression is dangerous, not only for the mom’s health, but for the baby’s as well.

“Postpartum depression has been shown to have effects on the baby's IQ and language development,” explains Jennifer Payne, MD, a psychiatrist at UVA.

Women with postpartum depression are 20 percent more likely to die by suicide.

Dr. Payne says, “Treating mom for postpartum depression is incredibly important to minimize those risks.”

Dr. Payne and her colleagues analyzed the responses of one million new moms answering a health survey after childbirth.

“We found pretty definitively that twin pregnancies have a higher rate of postpartum depressive symptoms,” Dr. Payne mentions.

In fact, the researchers say women over 40 with twin pregnancies had the highest risk of developing PPD. Moms who were younger than 25, and moms pregnant for the first time also had a higher rate of depressive symptoms.

Dr. Payne says if doctors know a woman may be at higher risk, they can screen for the condition, and new moms can be aware of the signs so they can seek help. Dr. Payne also says doctors routinely screen about 99 percent of all pregnant women for gestational diabetes, but only about 40 percent of pregnant women are screened for PPD.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Shelby Kluver at shelby.kluver@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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