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Pregnancy Alone Not A Risk for Mental Health Problems

But certain subset did show raised risk for psychiatric disorders, study finds

MONDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnancy alone isn't associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders, a new study says.

It's been suggested that pregnant women and those who've recently given birth are at high risk for psychiatric disorders, which can harm the health of their children, according to background information in the study.

To determine whether this was true, the study authors analyzed data from interviews with 43,093 people who took part in a survey on alcohol and substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. The respondents included 14,549 women, aged 18 to 50, who'd been pregnant within the past year.

"Past-year pregnant and postpartum women had significantly lower rates of alcohol use disorders and any substance use, except illicit drug use, than non-pregnant women," wrote the study authors, from the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Women who were pregnant at the time of the study had a lower risk of having any mood disorder, except major depression, than non-pregnant women. "Age, marital status, health status, stressful life events and history of traumatic experiences were all significantly associated with higher risk of psychiatric disorders in pregnant and postpartum women."

Overall, pregnancy alone is not associated with increased risk of the most common mental disorders, the researchers concluded. However, they did identify certain groups of pregnant women with a particularly high prevalence of psychiatric disorders, including those aged 18 to 25 living without a partner, widowed, separated, divorced or never married, and those who experienced pregnancy complications or stressful life events.

"Given the critical importance of this life period for mothers and their offspring, urgent action is needed to increase detection and treatment of psychiatric disorders among pregnant and postpartum women in the United States," the researchers wrote.

The study is published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about postpartum depression.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 7, 2008

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