Postpartum and nonpostpartum depression: Differences in presentation and response to pharmacologic treatment

Authors

  • Victoria Hendrick M.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, Los Angeles, California
    • Department of Psychiatry, UCLA Medical Plaza, Bldg. 300, Suite 2200, Los Angeles, CA 90095
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  • Lori Altshuler M.D.,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, Los Angeles, California
    2. West L.A. Veterans Administration Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
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  • Tom Strouse M.D.,

    1. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
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  • Stella Grosser Ph.D.

    1. Department of Biostatistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

Following childbirth, major depression (postpartum depression) affects approximately 8–12% of new mothers. However, little is known about the pharmacological management of postpartum depression, and no studies to date have assessed differences in treatment response between women with postpartum and nonpostpartum major depression

The authors reviewed the records of 26 women with postpartum major depression and 25 women with major depression unrelated to childbearing (nonpostpartum depression) who presented to them for treatment over a 4-year period. Compared with the nonpostpartum depressed patients, the postpartum depressed women were significantly more likely to present with anxious features. Also, cases of postpartum depression were more severe than cases of nonpostpartum depression. While the postpartum patients were equally as likely to recover (as defined by a Clinical Global Impression score of 1 or 2) compared to the nonpostpartum-depressed patients, their time to response was significantly longer. By 3 weeks of pharmacotherapy, 75% of the nonpostpartum cases had recovered, in contrast to only 36% of the postpartum cases. Further, postpartum patients were significantly more likely to be receiving more than one antidepressant agent at the time of response to treatment. Length of depression prior to treatment did not explain the difference in treatment response. Presence of depressive symptoms during pregnancy and timing of onset of the depression (before vs. after 4 weeks of delivery) did not affect likelihood of treatment response in this sample

Women with postpartum depression appear to be significantly more likely than the nonpostpartum women to present with anxious features, take longer to respond to pharmacotherapy for depression, and require more antidepressant agents at the time of response to treatment. Depression and Anxiety 11:66–72, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc

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