Prevalence of postpartum depression in a Native American population.

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Baker, Lisa; Sandra Cross; Linda Greaver; Gon Wei; Regina Lewis; and Healthy Start CORPS. "Prevalence of postpartum depression in a Native American population." Maternal and child health journal 9.1 (March 2005): 21-25.


This article reports on a study of postpartum depression, which the authors define as including "symptoms such as sadness, tearfulness, lack of motivation, diminished interest in food or self-care, trouble concentrating, and loss of interest in the new baby" (p. 21). They explain that this psychological disorder is documented as affecting 10-15% of women. It usually appears before the six-week point after a baby is born, but it can appear up to one year after birth. Postpartum depression is different from postpartum blues, which affects up to 70% of new mothers and will not last beyond two weeks after the child's birth.

The authors are concerned that most studies of postpartum depression focus on Caucasian, middle-class mothers; in addition, studies of Native American women during the perinatal period are limited.

The study described in this article is based on screening of 151 women who visited an obstetrical clinic in Robeson County between September, 2002 and May, 2003 for their 6-week postpartum visit. This screening is part of the Healthy Start CORPS, a program funded by the U. S. Health Resources Service Administration and housed at UNC-Pembroke. The women's ages ranged from 16 to 40. The sample was 60.9% Lumbee, 25.8% African American, and 13.3% Caucasian or other. 91.4% of the sample said they had never been treated for depression.

The women completed the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale (PDSS), 2002, by Beck and Gable. The PDSS is a 35-item self-report, which is preceded by a 7-item short scale. Results of the short scale indicate whether the respondent should complete the full scale. In this study, 31.8% of respondents completed the full scale.

Among Lumbee respondents, 76.8% were within the normal range; 10.6% had significant symptoms of postpartum depression; and 12.6% had symptoms of major postpartum depression. The authors report statistically significant differences in test scores between respondents with a history of treatment for depression and those without such a history.

The authors conclude: "The findings highlight the importance of implementing routine screening protocols, thus enabling communities and health care professionals to address the needs of individual patients and provide the necessary information to ensure follow-up services and support for a larger population" (p. 24).

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