Postpartum depression: Who is most at risk?

Postpartum depression occurs after childbirth

PPD is the most common pregnancy complication, even higher than gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

Every year in the United States, 900,000 people who give birth 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 those 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, there can be feelings of sadness, and for some, those feelings linger. Health experts say postpartum depression is dangerous, not only for the birthing person’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 the University of Virginia.

Those with postpartum depression are 20% more likely to die by suicide.

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

Payne and her colleagues analyzed the responses of 1 million pregnant people answering a health survey after childbirth.

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

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

Payne says that if doctors know a patient may be at higher risk, they can screen for the condition and the patient can be aware of the signs to know when to seek help. Payne also says doctors routinely screen about 99% of all pregnant patients for gestational diabetes, but only about 40% are screened for PPD.