A new study has found that depressive symptoms are more common four years after a first baby, than during the first 12 months of your little one’s life
It’s a condition that mums and health professionals are told to look out for in the months after birth, but contrary to popular belief, postnatal depression (PND) is more common when your child is older.
Research carried out in Australia and published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology looked at 1,507 first time mothers based in Melbourne Australia, who completed questionnaires at three, six, 12, 18 months and four years after giving birth.
The researchers discovered that it was at four years after childbirth that the highest incidences of depression – 14.5% – were recorded.
However, women with only one child at four years after birth showed significantly higher levels of depression than women with two or more children.
‘It is likely that current systems of maternal mental health surveillance in Australia and the UK will miss more than half the women experiencing depression in the early years of parenting,’ said Dr Hannah Woolhouse, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in Victoria, Australia.
‘In particular, women who do not have subsequent children may be especially vulnerable to falling through the gaps as they will not be reconnected back into primary care services.’
John Thorp, BJOG editor-in-chief, added, ‘Much research has been conducted around maternal mental health during the pre- and postnatal period, however, we know very little about how common maternal depression is after the first 12 months of giving birth.
‘The findings of this study reinforce the need for an increased focus on maternal health, particularly in the long term, as current guidance for professionals focuses on pregnancy and the early months after birth, and the need to take into account factors linked to the mother’s life.’
"We know very little about how common maternal depression is after the first 12 months of giving birth"
So whether you’re a mum to a newborn or are watching your toddler grow up, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression. These can include low mood, apathy, sleep problems, lack of appetite and frightening thoughts. If you're feeling like this, talk to your doctor about ways you can get help.
Have you experienced postnatal depression after having your baby? How did you get through it? Let us know below.