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J Affect Disord. 2002 Sep;71(1-3):169-80.

Stability and change in level of maternal depressive symptomatology during the first postpartum year.

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Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



This study evaluated stability and change in the level of maternal depressive symptomatology over the course of the first postpartum year in a community cohort of 106 first-time mothers of full-term, healthy infants. Effects of diagnosed depression and infant gender were also assessed.


At 2 months postpartum (intake), mothers were classified into one of two symptom groups on the basis of their total score on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D): high (CES-D score > or = 16, 46%) or normative (CES-D score = 2-12, 54%). Mothers completed the CES-D again at 3, 6, and 12 months postpartum. At 12 months, maternal diagnostic status for major depression and related disorders was evaluated using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule-III-Revised.


Mothers in the High symptom group at intake continued to have significantly higher CES-D scores at 3, 6, and 12 months than mothers in the Normative symptom group at intake, and a third in the High symptom group at intake had a subsequent CES-D score above the clinical cutoff (> or = 16). Maternal CES-D scores were significantly correlated across visits. In regressions controlling for diagnostic status and infant gender, mothers' CES-D score at the most recent prior assessment contributed significant unique variance to mothers' CES-D score at each subsequent assessment. CES-D scores were higher at 3 months if mothers had diagnosed depression and were parenting a son, and higher at 12 months if mothers had both diagnosed depression and a prior, high CES-D score.


Findings may not generalize to multipara or high-risk cohorts.


First-time mothers with high levels of depressive symptomatology at 2 months postpartum (especially those with diagnosed depression) are at increased risk of continuing to experience high levels of depressive symptomatology throughout the first postpartum year. Implications for preventative intervention services are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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