Young women “seven times more likely” to develop depression after childbirth, study reveals

Young women are seven times more likely to develop depression after childbirth than any other time in their lives, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Manchester, adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to pregnancy and childbirth as the leading cause of mental illness in women.

However, the latest analysis shows that young women, aged between 15 and 19 years of age, are most vulnerable to postpartum depression.

According to the investigation, which compared the health histories of some 2.7 million women in the UK, young women are “over seven times more likely” to develop depression in postpartum periods compared to non-postpartum periods.

The study also found that that 15-to-19-year-olds are 50 per cent more likely to develop anxiety in postpartum periods than non-postpartum periods. Psychosis also occurred in double the number of young women in postpartum periods compared to the general population.

Commenting on the research, author Dr Eleanor Swift said: “This study adds new evidence that the effect of childbirth on mental illness is highly age-dependent. Young women are affected to the greatest extent, particularly for depression and anxiety.

“This is important because postpartum mental illnesses has been repeatedly linked to poorer outcomes for mother and child and these risks make planning parenthood more daunting for women.

“We hope that having a better understanding of which women are most at risk of postpartum mental illness can help provide clearer information and target treatments to the right groups of women to reduce health inequalities.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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