Postpartum Depressive Disorders: Changing Trends


  • Rosalind R. Unterman M.A., M.S.W.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Rosalind Unterman is Research Associate in Postpartum Depression, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York.
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  • Norman A. Posner M.D.,

    1. Norman Posner is Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York.
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  • Karen N. Williams Ph.D.

    1. Karen Williams is Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Biological Science, Union College, Schenectady, New York.
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  • Supported by funds from the Maimonides Medical Center Research and Development Foundation and the Practice Fund of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center.

Address correspondence to Rosalind Unterman, 715 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230.


ABSTRACT: For centuries, there has been speculation regarding the etiology of postpartum depression. An improved diagnostic classification has emerged, however, as the universality of the syndrome has been recognized and the role of hormonal, genetic, and obstetric variables considered. In addition, different cultures have different perceptions of the needs of the new mother. The emphasis in investigative work now appears to be in the psychosocial and psychodynamic areas. Our recent research focused on identification of risk factors early in pregnancy, including a history of depression, separation from one or both parents in childhood or adolescence, poor parental emotional support in childhood and adulthood, poor relationship with husband or partner, economic problems, and dissatisfaction with amount of education. We suggest that physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals be aware of the emotional status of their patients, familiarize themselves with the risk factors, and initiate a program of careful postpartum follow-up. These measures will help to improve recognition and management of the woman at risk for postpartum depression.