Postpartum depression (PPD) is a significant health issue, according to a study of 29,685 American women, with nearly 13% at risk. The findings revealed that women who were breastfeeding at the time of data collection had a statistically significant lower risk of PPD than women who were not. There was also a statistically significant inverse relationship between breastfeeding duration and PPD risk. Women’s PPD decreased as the number of weeks they breastfed increased. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in PPD risk between women with different levels of breastfeeding intent (yes, no, unsure).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 11 and 20% of women who give birth in the United States each year experience postpartum depression symptoms, which is the leading risk factor for maternal suicide and infanticide. Given that there are 4 million births each year, this equates to nearly 800,000 women suffering from postpartum depression each year.
Breastfeeding may reduce a woman’s risk of postpartum depression, according to current biological and psychosocial models. Prior research, on the other hand, had only looked at the initiation of breastfeeding and the length of breastfeeding. Furthermore, small and often homogeneous samples have produced ungeneralizable results with low statistical power, as well as results that are biased due to higher levels of education, income, and proportions of white participants compared to the general population of the sampled country.
Women suffering from postpartum depression, which occurs within four weeks and can last up to 12 months after childbirth, experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, and extreme fatigue, making it difficult for them to function.Christine Toledo
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and collaborators are the first to use a large, national population-based dataset of 29,685 women living in 26 states to examine current breastfeeding status in relation to postpartum depression risk.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Public Health Nursing, show that postpartum depression is a significant health issue among American women, with nearly 13% at risk. Women who were breastfeeding at the time of data collection had a statistically significantly lower risk of postpartum depression than women who were not breastfeeding. Furthermore, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between the length of breastfeeding and the risk of postpartum depression. Women’s postpartum depression decreased as the number of weeks they breastfed increased. Unexpectedly, there was no significant difference in postpartum depression risk among women with varying breastfeeding intentions (yes, no, unsure).
“Women suffering from postpartum depression, which occurs within four weeks and can last up to 12 months after childbirth, experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, and extreme fatigue, making it difficult for them to function,” said Christine Toledo, Ph.D., senior author and assistant professor at FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Women with untreated postpartum depression may have negative outcomes such as difficulty bonding with and caring for their children, thoughts of harming themselves or their infant, and an increased risk of substance abuse.”
Women who have previously experienced postpartum depression have a 50% increased risk of experiencing it again in subsequent deliveries. Furthermore, they have a 25% increased risk of developing depressive disorders unrelated to childbirth up to 11 years later. Postpartum depression raises maternal morbidity and is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Toledo and colleagues from the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, the University of North Carolina School of Nursing, Chapel Hill, Seattle University of Nursing, and The University of British Columbia School of Nursing analyzed data from the 2016 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) questionnaire to investigate the association of breastfeeding practices while controlling for significant covariates such as age, racial/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
“The results of this important study suggest that breastfeeding is a cost-effective and healthy behavior that can reduce a woman’s risk of postpartum depression,” said Safiya George, Ph.D., dean of the FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Nurses, in particular, play an important role in educating and promoting both the maternal health benefits of breastfeeding and the infant benefits, such as providing necessary nutrients and protecting infants from allergies, diseases, and infections.”