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Women’s Health

Postpartum Depression Can Do Long-Term Harm to Women’s Finances

Besides its terrible impact on mental health, postpartum depression can also bring long-term financial struggles to affected women, new research shows.

“These findings highlight the importance of screening and expanding access to mental health support services for low-income pregnant and postpartum women,” said study author Slawa Rokicki, an instructor at Rutgers School of Public Health in New Brunswick, N.J.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on more than 4,300 U.S. women who had babies between 1998 and 2000 and were followed until 2017.

About 12% of the women met the criteria for major depression in the year after giving birth. Those women were more likely to have been born in the United States, to have lower household incomes and to have received public assistance in the year before delivery.

Postpartum depression in the first year after giving birth was strongly associated with financial hardship — such as difficulty meeting medical costs, having utilities shut off, inability to pay bills and even eviction and homelessness — for up to 15 years later.

Postpartum depression was also associated with unemployment in the first three years after giving birth and poverty three to nine years after delivery, according to findings recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“This research also has implications for the cost-effectiveness of maternal health interventions,” said study co-author Mark McGovern, an assistant professor in Rutgers’ School of Public Health. “Our results imply that programs designed to lower the prevalence of maternal depression should be viewed not only as interventions that promote population health but also as interventions that increase economic well-being.”

More information

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about postpartum depression.

SOURCES: Rutgers University, news release, Nov. 17, 2021

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