More than 400,000 adolescent girls will give birth in the United States each year, and about one in four of them will experience postpartum depression (PPD).
"Adolescent postpartum depression is a critical problem of great public health significance. Rates of depression among new adolescent mothers are significantly higher than adult postpartum women and non-perinatal adolescents," explained Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, interim chief of obstetrics and gynecology, director of research with Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University.
Dr. Phipps leads a team addressing this situation through research. After developing a preventive intervention called Project REACH (Relax, Encourage, Appreciate, Communicate, Help) to reduce the risk of PPD in adolescent mothers, the team recently launched a five-year study to evaluate the program. The study is sponsored by the National Institute for Mental Health through a five-year, $2.8-million grant.
"The current Project REACH proposal builds on the foundation of our National Institute of Mental Health-funded treatment development project and pilot study in which we were able to demonstrate a reduction in cases of depression within six months postpartum," Dr. Phipps said. "We believe our current study will show that Project REACH is effective in reducing the risk for developing postpartum depression in adolescent mothers."
The danger of PPD in adolescents
Evidence suggests that PPD prevents adolescent mothers from engaging in healthy behaviors both for themselves and their infants. Untreated depression is associated with dropping out of school, suicide and substance use.
"Depression in the postpartum period puts adolescent mothers and their children at risk during an already challenging time in their lives and may be a major cause of poor outcomes for these young mothers and their
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Women & Infants Hospital