Study Links Postpartum Depression and Domestic Violence

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A recent study led by Dr. Barry Solomon of John’s Hopkins links postpartum depression to domestic violence. While the connection does not come as a major surprise, researchers suggest that the findings are important to understanding how to best help women who are dealing with postpartum depression.

No one is suggesting that domestic violence is the cause of all instances of postpartum depression. In fact, the study found that one in four new mothers struggles with postpartum depression, while only one in fourteen deals with domestic violence. The researchers do suggest, however, that medical professionals who are treating women for postpartum depression should at least screen them to see if they are the victims of domestic violence.

Some of the more significant findings of the study linking domestic violence to postpartum depression are:

  • Mothers who were dealing with domestic violence had double the normal chances of postpartum depression.
  • Over half of the women dealing with domestic violence also dealt with symptoms of depression. This is more than double the rate of those who are not in violent relationships.
  • Women who have postpartum depression are four times as likely to be in abusive relationships as those who do not suffer from postpartum depression.
  • Women who have postpartum depression are more likely to bring their babies to the emergency room.

There is some debate regarding the exact relationship between postpartum depression and domestic violence. Some experts feel that the domestic violence is generally the cause of the depression. Others believe that women who suffer from depression are simply more likely to subconsciously seek or stay in abusive relationships.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, whether or not you are also suffering from postpartum depression, seek help. Tell your doctor, tell the police, tell someone. For your own safety and for the wellbeing of your baby, remove yourself from the abusive situation.

As the results of this study are circulated, we can expect to see more pediatricians and emergency room doctors asking questions to screen those who are going through postpartum depression for domestic violence. If you are suffering from postpartum depression that is not linked to domestic violence, bear with your health care professionals. Asking difficult questions is an important part of what they do in dealing with complex issues like postpartum.

What can you do to help someone who is dealing with postpartum depression? What would you do if it turns out that they’re also dealing with domestic violence?


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