Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health have found that pregnant women and new moms with diabetes are likely to become depressed, putting both themselves and baby at risk.
"While previous studies have linked diabetes and depression in the general population, this is the first time, to our knowledge, that the relationship has been studied specifically in pregnant women and new mothers," says Katy Backes Kozhimannil, research fellow in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
"We believe these findings may help clinicians better identify and treat depression in new mothers," Kozhimannil added.
For the study, Kozhimannil and colleagues examined medical claims data from the New Jersey Medicaid program, looking at information from 11,024 new mothers who had given birth between July 2004 and September 2006.
All women in the study were eligible for Medicaid 6 months prior to and one year after delivery and had incomes less than 115 percent of the federal poverty line (24,000 dollar for a family of four in 2006).
The researchers identified a woman as having depression if her records indicated a diagnosis, or if she had filled a prescription for an antidepressant medication during the study period.
Study data indicated that 9.6 percent of women with diabetes, who had no indication of depression during pregnancy, developed depression during the year following delivery, compared with 5.9 percent of women without diabetes.
Put another way, pregnant women and new mothers with diabetes were approximately 55 to 60 percent more likely to experience postpartum depression.
The increased risk of postpartam depression is similar for women who already had diabetes and those who developed it during pregnancy.
The researchers have warned that these findings do not establish that diabetes causes postpartum depression, only that the two are related.
These findings are published in the February 25 edition of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.