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Arch Womens Ment Health. 2009 Apr;12(2):75-83. doi: 10.1007/s00737-009-0049-6. Epub 2009 Feb 13.

Seeking help for anxiety and depression after childbirth: results of the Maternal Health Study.

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Healthy Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Victoria, Australia.


Access to treatment for postnatal anxiety and depression is dependant on women seeking help for psychological symptoms. The aim of this paper was to investigate what women themselves say about seeking help for emotional difficulties after childbirth. The Maternal Health Study is a prospective pregnancy cohort study investigating the physical and psychological health of 1,507 nulliparous women during pregnancy and after birth. One thousand, three hundred eighty-five women completed a computer-assisted telephone interview at 9 months postpartum; 8.5% of women reported intense anxiety or panic attacks occasionally or often, and 9.5% reported depressed mood, between 6 and 9 months postpartum. Of those experiencing anxiety symptoms alone 44.4% had spoken to a health professional, compared with 65.5% of women experiencing depressive symptoms alone (RR = 0.68, 95% CI-0.5 to 0.9). Measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms at 9 months postpartum were not validated against diagnostic criteria. Anxiety is a common experience in the perinatal period. More research is needed into this area to determine what levels of anxiety are 'normal' and acceptable to women during this period. Public health campaigns may have been more effective in encouraging women to seek help for depression than anxiety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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