Today’s expectant moms are more likely to experience depression than their own mothers decades ago.
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A recent study surveyed a group of pregnant women between 1990 and 1992 and found that 17% of them reported depression symptoms while pregnant.
The daughters of these women had even higher rates of depression.
“From 2012 to 2016, they studied their offspring ― their daughters ― and from that survey study, there were about 25% of the women who experienced depressive symptoms,” explains Ob/Gyn Rebecca Starck, MD, who did not take part in the study.
Researchers say that these results suggest prenatal depression is, on average, 51% more common among millennial moms than it was in their mother’s generation 25 years ago.
Why the increase?
Dr. Starck says the uptick in reports could be attributed to the increased awareness and education of young women regarding depression symptoms and that today’s women might feel more empowered to report them.
But she says it could also mean that there is actually more depression, which could be influenced by factors such as less support and fewer resources ― as well as less time for maternity leave for today’s moms.
These results suggest that as a society we need to look at the support mechanisms that are in place to help women and their babies thrive, Dr. Starck says.
Don’t stay silent
When it comes to both prenatal and postpartum depression, the best place to start making positive change is by opening up the conversation about depression and letting women know that help is available.
“Talking to our patients, our friends, our colleagues, our sisters,” she says. “Recognizing the symptoms, recognizing that there’s treatment for the symptoms, and that it is a huge burden on society if we don’t address these problems when they arise.”
Dr. Starck says women who suffered from depression in a previous pregnancy are more likely to experience it in subsequent pregnancies.
Changes in sleep habits, excessive crying or drastic changes in appetite are reasons? Those are reasons to check in with a doctor right away.
Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA.