A new study says that constant fatigue immediately after birth may be the best indicator of subsequent postpartum depression. The study also says that women who felt fatigues two weeks after the birth of their child were more likely to be depressed.
"All mothers are tired right after having a baby - it helps them get the rest that they needs to recover and heal from the physical and mental stressors of childbirth," said Elizabeth Corwin, an associate professor of nursing at Ohio State University
and the lead author of the current study. "But for most women, fatigue steadily fades within the first two weeks of giving birth. " The study also says that it is the persistence of the fatigue rather than anything else that is a warning sign. It was fatigue and not stress or depression that was a problem for women in the current study. "For these women, the constant fatigue came first, and depression followed," Corwin commented. The reserachers recruited pregnant women nearing the end of their third trimester for the study. 31 women completed the study and delivered normally without any complications. Each woman had one researcher assigned to her and was advised to call this person as soon as possible after the delivery. The women then filled out questionnaires regarding fatigue, stress and both symptoms and history of depression. They also gave a saliva sample so that reserachers could tabulate the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, around 11 of the 31 women reported feeling depressed by the fourth week after delivery, "It was ultimately fatigue that best predicted which women would develop postpartum depression," Corwin said. "One of the problems with postpartum depression is that women usually aren't diagnosed until the disease is already established. If a woman's health care provider knew early on that a patient was slipping down this slope, he or she could intervene. It may not take much to screen for it, either - the questions in the fatigue test that we used took about two to three minutes to answer." Researchers from the Pennsylvania State University also assisted in the study. The study is published in the latest issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing.
Contact: Elizabeth Corwin
Ohio State University