General News of 2013-01-15

Postpartum depression prevalent in Ghana

Researchers have found a high prevalence of depression in mothers of sick infants in Ghana, which can place their children at even greater risk for health problems, according to study results.

“Our research provides a mental health snapshot for this population of high-risk moms,” study researcher Katherine J. Gold, MD, MSW, of the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a press release. “Addressing these health concerns may be particularly important for mothers of sick infants who have additional medical problems impacting their health.”

Katherine J. Gold Gold and colleagues surveyed 153 women at the Mother-Baby Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, in 2011. The Patient Health Questionnaire was used to screen for depression, and participants also reported on their level of social support.

Results showed that 32.7% of participants had mild depression, 27.4% had moderate depression and 9.8% moderate-to-severe depression. Participants who had no relatives helping them after birth were more likely to have moderate-to-severe depression (P=.018). Higher levels of depression were significantly associated with history of interpersonal violence with the participant’s current partner (OR=2.14; 95% CI, 1.11-4.13) and poor health status (OR=2.89; 95% CI, 1.29-6.45).

In previous research, maternal depression has been linked to stunted growth and poorer health outcomes in children. According to Gold, there are significant barriers to mental health care for new mothers in underdeveloped countries.

“Postpartum depression is well known in the United States,” she said, “and we recognize that pregnancy and the postpartum period are vulnerable times for maternal mental health. But in low-income nations, many people view symptoms of depression as spiritual or personal issues rather than a psychiatric condition, which could be treated.”