A recent study published in BJOG has found that maternal depression appears to be more common at four years following childbirth than at any other time in the first 12 months after childbirth. The research suggests that there needs to be a greater focus on maternal mental health.

The research, conducted by Dr Hannah Woolhouse, psychologist and Senior Research Officer at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Victoria, Australia collected data from 1507 women from six public hospitals in Melbourne. Maternal depression was assessed from early pregnancy to four years postpartum by questionnaire at 3, 6, 12, 18 months postpartum and four years postpartum. Likely risk factors for depressive symptoms at four years postpartum included previous depression, relationship transitions, intimate partner violence and social adversity.

Dr Woolhouse said,  “These findings provide a compelling case for re-thinking current policy frameworks for maternal mental health surveillance.”

“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. 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.”

“There also needs to be a focus on social health and relationships as we have found a strong link between depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence.”

The full article can be read here.