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Postnatal depression which is persistent (whether moderate or severe) increases mothers’ risk of continuing to experience depressive symptoms beyond the postnatal year, with high levels found up until 11 years after childbirth.
Available research suggests that postnatal depression is associated with increased risks to children’s development affecting a range of domains. The effects are variable with some evidence suggesting that brief episodes, while distressing to the mother, may not impact negatively on children’s development. However, episodes of depression which persist for six months or more in duration may increase the risk for children. Identifying women at most risk is important both for women’s mental health and children’s development. The authors investigated whether depression has a similar impact when it is, or is not, persistent at either moderate or severe levels. Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Bristol, Reading and UCLA in a new paper in JAMA Psychiatry tracked changes in mothers’ depressive symptoms following the postnatal year and differences in children’s development when postnatal depression was, or was not, persistent.