How Maternal Mental Illness Affects Women & Families

1 in every 7 women will get postpartum depression or a related illness. In low socioeconomic areas, that number rises to 1 in 4.
More women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.
Postpartum Progress

Women during their childbearing years account for the largest group of Americans with depression.

American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists

45-65% of ever-depressed women have their first episode of depression during their first postpartum year.

National Institute for Healthcare Management

Suicide accounts for about 20% of postpartum deaths and is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women.

Archives of Women's Mental Health

There is “… robust evidence that maternal mental illness places families with young children at risk for homelessness.”

American Journal of Public Health

Despite the frequency of depression among new mothers, large numbers of affected individuals may not be identified as having a treatable condition, and only 15 percent obtain professional care.

Harvard Center on the Developing Child

How Maternal Mental Illness Affects Children & Families

Maternal depression and anxiety is a stronger risk factor for child behavior problems than smoking, binge drinking and emotional or physical domestic abuse.

National Center for Children in Poverty

Children who experience maternal depression early in life may experience lasting effects on their brain architecture and persistent disruption of their stress response systems.

Harvard Center on the Developing Child

Untreated postpartum depression has been associated with serious consequences, most notably impaired mother-infant bonding and long-term effects on emotional behavior and cognitive skills.

National Research Council

As compared to non-depressed mothers, mothers with postpartum depression are less likely to consistently use a car seat (67% vs. 84%), more likely to bring their babies to the emergency room (26% vs. 16%) and less likely to have their infant use the back sleep position (60% vs 79%).

Balbierz et al, Maternal Child Health Journal, Nov 2014

Older children of mothers depressed during infancy show poor self-control, aggression, poor peer relationships, and difficulty in school.

Zero to Three

Maternal depression can create problems that can continue into adolescence. Adolescents with a history of exposure to maternal depression have higher rates of major depression and other disorders such as anxiety, conduct disorders and substance abuse disorders. This is of particular concern because depression that begins early in life is associated with a greater severity of illness and a higher risk of suicide and other violent behavior than later onset depression.

National Business Group on Health

Depression is a particularly serious problem for low-income mothers, since it can create two generations of suffering, for the mother and her children.

Urban Institute

What makes the harm to children and their parents so distressing is the depression is usually treatable — and thus, the damage to children is preventable.

Urban Institute

How Much Maternal Mental Illness Costs

Women who suffer from depression during pregnancy and their infants are at risk for costly complications. Nearly $15 billion dollars is spent on childbirth-related hospitalizations and half of these costs are billed to private insurance.

National Business Group on Health

Children of depressed mothers have higher medical claims than do children of healthy women because they bear a higher burden of illness, use health care services more frequently and have more medical office and emergency department visits than do children of non-depressed mothers.

National Business Group on Health

The annual cost of not treating a mother with depression [in lost income and productivity alone] is $7,200. {Note: If you extrapolate that out to 800,000 mothers each year, that means the annual cost of untreated maternal depression in the U.S. is $5.7 billion dollars.}

Wilder Research

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