Objective: To investigate the prevalence of depressive symptoms and self reported health of women who have shown previous postpartum depressive symptoms. To examine the behavior of four-year-old children born to mothers affected by postpartum depression.
Methods: Longitudinal study. The index group (n = 251) constituted of all women with postpartum depressive symptoms on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), in a population-based study made in the late 1990s. The control group (n = 502) consisted of women without postpartum depressive symptoms on the EPDS at the same occasion. Approximately four years after delivery these women were asked to answer a short questionnaire on general health, the EPDS, and also to assess their child’s behavior with the Richman Pre-School Behaviour Checklist.
Results: Women with a history of postpartum depressive symptoms were approximately 6 times more likely to have recurrent depressive symptoms (OR = 5.82, 95% CI: 3.79–8.93), compared to those without postpartum depressive symptoms, and they were also more likely to experience physical and mental illness. Although postpartum depressive symptoms in the mothers were involved in explaining the likelihood of behavioral problems in their four-year-old children, mothers with current depressive symptoms were the most likely to have a child with behavioral problems (OR = 4.71, 95% CI: 1.88–11.78).
Conclusion: Postpartum depressive illness constitutes a risk for future illness as well as maternal perceived behavioral problems in offspring. In order to diminish long-term adverse consequences for the mother and the child there is a great need to recognize and treat women with postpartum depressive symptoms as early as possible.
Keywords: Postpartum depression; maternal depression; child behavior; follow-up study