Eating Disorders May Raise Risk of Depression in
WEDNESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Although depression
strikes one in 10 women during pregnancy or shortly after giving
birth, those who have had an eating disorder or suffered physical
or sexual abuse are more likely to develop the condition, according
to a new study.
This means that screening for mental health problems should
become a routine part of prenatal care, concluded researchers from
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of
"Pregnancy and the postpartum period is a very vulnerable time for women" -- and an ideal time for intervention, the study's lead author Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of UNC's Perinatal Psychiatry Program, said in a university news release.
The drastic changes in the shape of a woman's body -- as well as
her weight and hormone levels during a time of major life
transition -- can be especially difficult for those with a history
of psychiatric issues, she added.
In the study, published in the June issue of the
Journal of Women's Health, researchers surveyed 158 pregnant and postpartum women undergoing treatment for depression. They found that one-third of the women reported a history of eating disorders, such as binge eating, bulimia and anorexia. Many also had a history of physical or sexual abuse.
The investigators concluded that these mental health factors may
increase a woman's risk for depression during pregnancy or right
after delivery. They also said the findings could help doctors
identify high-risk patients and get them treatment before
pregnancy-related depression harms the women, their children and/or
other family members.
"Screening by obstetrical providers is really important because they can refer patients for appropriate treatment," said Meltzer-Brody. "And that can prevent long-lasting problems for mom and baby."
The long-term consequences of pregnancy-related depression can
be significant. Children of depressed mothers, the study authors
pointed out, are more likely to develop mental health problems.
Moreover, when a mother has an eating disorder, their child may
also be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
"The message we need to get out is that these things are incredibly common and routine screenings need to occur," said Meltzer-Brody. "[Pregnancy] is a time when people are really motivated to make changes and get treatment, because that can have serious consequences for how you do and for how your children do."
In the United States, an estimated 6 percent to 8 percent of
women have had an eating disorder and an estimated 25 percent have
experienced physical or sexual abuse.
WomensHealth.gov has more information on pregnancy
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.