Postpartum depression not only affects mothers but it could mean higher health risks for the baby - especially in low-income countries like Ghana where the condition isn't well-recognized, University of Michigan Health System research shows.
Efforts to reduce child mortality and improve infant growth, health, and nutritional status in less-developed countries must address the mental health of new moms, the study suggests.
Two-thirds of participating mothers of sick, hospitalized babies in Ghana showed high risk for symptoms of clinical depression - which puts their babies and young children at significant health risks - according to the new research that appears in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.
Postpartum depression in Africa appears to be at least as common and perhaps even more common than in high-income countries, yet very little research has looked at maternal mental health in developing nations.
Katherine J. Gold, University of Michigan
"Our research provides a mental health snapshot for this population of high-risk moms. We know that if a mother has postpartum depression, both she and her baby face substantial health risks," says lead author Katherine J. Gold, M.D., M.S.W., M.S., assistant professor of family medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
"Addressing these health concerns may be particularly important for mothers of sick infants who have additional medical problems impacting their health."
In low- and middle-income nations, maternal depression has been linked to poor infant nutritional status, diarrhea, and respiratory illness - critical factors of child survival. Children with mothers who are depressed are also nearly twice as likely to be underweight and experience growth stunting.