Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

New Moms At Risk

New moms are at risk for developing serious mental illness–not only the postpartum depression commonly understood, thanks to the advocacy of Brooke Shields and her memoir “Down Came the Rain,” but also schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Last month, Danish researchers published their study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which was the largest ever to look at postpartum depression, and the first to consider schizophrenia and other kinds of mental illness as different faces of serious postpartum depression.

The Danish study collected civic and health records from over a million first-time parents over a span of three decades, and found that the first three months after women have their first baby is riskiest, especially the first few weeks. During the first 10 to 19 days, new mothers were seven times more likely to be hospitalized with some form of mental illness than women with older infants. Compared to women with no children, new mothers were four times more likely to be hospitalized with mental problems.


New dads aren’t as susceptible (go figure). Researchers suggest that could be because of a woman’s hormones and all the changes taking place after birth, or that a woman carries more of the parenting burden (you think?).

Reporter Lindsey Tanner summarizes the study in her Associated Press article, “Study: Moms at Risk for Mental Problems.

  • http://whatisthis? Marilyn Blum

    Hi, I’m Marilyn and have been depressed since a little girl. I am now 69 years old and on medication for chemical imbalance. I didn’t know I was depressed; but always felt like the other kids didn’t like me. High school was better because I did well in school and seemed to be well liked. But, motherhood did me in. I screamed, hit and then cried. I went to a MD who said I was healthy. So I was more depressed because nothing was wrong. My four teen agers almost drove me to leave town with no forwarding address. My husband did not understand me. I didn’t understand me. There was no such thing as “postpartem depression” or “moms with mental problems” back in 1660-1980, so I just suffered in anger at everyone, but God. He always seemed near to me and I knew He loved me, but I still hurt and didn’t know why. Then in 1990 my world collapsed when I was working full time, going to school nights, my mom was in a nursing home, we were building a new home, my health went wacco with the “change”, and my youngest son’s wife left him for another married man. I cried for two years daily, that is no stretch. I talked to my pastor, then went to psychotherapist who help immensley, but she referred me to psydhiatrist. And, guess what I had a chemical imbalance. What a relief. I spent many years of depression, trying to find answers and have been on medication for 15 years. It has been wonderful. I still don’t tell anyone, even my children, because there is such a negative judgement on people with depression. I’m an just blessed with an (now) understanding husband because he saw the difference in my attitude and behavior. I don’t know who reads this, but thanks for listening. I have only my psychiatrist to confide in. God bless, Marilyn

  • Kevin Keough

    Scientific research is plagued by the ‘politics of science’…a topic for another day. The research mentioned just skims the surface of the problem for young parents especially mothers. Need I tell people that while only 15 % of women needed hospitalization and/or outpatient therapy—and no fathers—-this tells the story ? Well, a good 70 % of women experience significant mood problems during/after pregnancy for lots of reasons; the other 30 % were able to vacation during their pregnancies and had no genetic predisposition to depression. The ‘findings’ re men are worse than useless. We must use measures that are sufficiently sensitive and specific to identify a new father’s moodiness and anxiety; it just won’t do to suggest that because men didn’t require hospitalization or get psychotherapy they were just peachy. Men are 2 1/2 times less likely to request help.Most new fathers are freaking out. Some just worsen things for their wives by ‘escaping’ from the home front in various ways. Most may not do much good but don’t abandon their wives and infants. Some single-handedly ‘steady’ their wives somehow during constant bouts of sobbing and hearing declarations …” I am a bad mother…..etc”. This group protects his new family from family and friends who insist on visiting at all the wrong times. These fathers get up with their little angels in disguise, feed them, change them, rock them, place music for them… mom breaks and giving the infant a break from moms-in -distress. These fathers will consider it an honor to shoulder the ‘burden’ through colic for months…eventually to become the unspoken primary caretakers of each children. A FATHER’S LOVE CAN BE EVERY BIT AS STRONG AND TENDER AS ANY MOTHER ( my ex would tell me she didn’t like infants so often I realized something was wrong) When my first arrived and we brought her home I was so worked up I went to the doctor’s within 2 hours to confess that I was in a state of panic. Xanax had just appeared on the market. He gave me a generous supply, allowing me to ‘anchor’ things. We live in a time that doesn’t offer the supports previous generations got when little ones came home; most new parents are isolated. The year following the birth of each child puts severe strain on the marital relationship–precisely when we need that relationship the most. We fail new parents and infants these days in ways that further demonstrate the lack of respect we have for families and human beings. Worse, we have the information and technology to ease these difficult transitions in the form of ‘transition to parenthood’ programs that guide couples through the time after the baby pops out till a sibling arrives and the cycle is repeated. provides married couples and those preparing for marriage with the closest thing we have to a marital owner’s manual designed to minimize chances of divorce and strengthen marriages each time a new member arrives. This program is the best science has to offer. There is a secular version, one for black couples, another for Jews, another for evangelical Christians….but the Catholic Church has failed to ‘incorporate the fruits of science’ to support marriages and families despite marching orders from John Paul II the Great…..what is up with this ? This approach is educational, time-limited, husband friendly, works immediately and the effects can be measured in the children 10 years later ! Nothing the Catholic Church offers comes close–why have we failed to incorporate this program into the Church ? I suggest we have no right to remain negligent any more. Marriages are at stake. Human misery results from this failure. Infants suffer terribly. We can’t say we love each other or our children if we fail to nurture our marriages in ways we know to work. Oh, the research is clear…couples who participate in such programs show reduced signs of depression and marital strain…and infants do better. As I read this entry by our fearless leader, I found myself becoming so angry…so angry that the same Church that pioneered and championed marriage prep from the beginning has failed to exercise common sense–even worse–the Church ignores the marching orders from John Paul II. I promise you I do not exaggerate the information presented here. I apologize for the strident tone. Yet, how can a man remain silent in the presence of a sin of ommision–of such magnitude. Mothers are the unrecognized saints of our time. We don’t support them or honor them. We don’t tell them every day, theirs is the most sacred work on the planet….a higher calling than the priesthood ? I believe JP II would surprise us if he weighed in on that one. Oh, he would ever suggest his Mother’s work was less important than whose……….Jesus never told his mother his work trumped her burden—such issues are left unspoken. I do pray somehow a spark lights a little fire, that spreads across the land….so we begin to do our best for our families. Thanks, Therese…it’s your fault…you get my Irish blood boiling

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