Study Finds an Inverse Relationship Between Breastfeeding Length and Risk of Postpartum Depression

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 11 and 20 percent of women who give birth each year in the U.S. have postpartum depression symptoms, which is the greatest risk factor for maternal suicide and infanticide. Given that there are 4 million births annually, this equates to almost 800,000 women with postpartum depression each year.

A new study led by Christine Toledo an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University finds that as the number of weeks new mothers breastfeed their infants increase, the lower their risk for postpartum depression.

In a study of 29,685 women living in 26 states, researchers found that 13 percent of all new mothers suffered from postpartum depression. They found that women who were currently breastfeeding at the time of data collection had statistically significant lower risk of postpartum depression than women who were not breastfeeding. In addition, there was a statistically significant inverse relationship between breastfeeding length and risk of postpartum depression.

“Women suffering from postpartum depression, which occurs within four weeks and up to 12 months after childbirth, endure feelings of sadness, anxiety, and extreme fatigue that makes it difficult for them to function,” Dr. Toledo said. “Women with postpartum depression who are not treated also may have negative outcomes, including difficulty bonding with and caring for their children, thoughts of harming themselves or their infant, and also are at an increased risk of substance misuse.”

Dr. Toledo holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Florida International University and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Miami.

The full study, “The Significance of Breastfeeding Practices on Postpartum Depression Risk,” was published on the website of the journal Public Health Nursing. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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