Mothers with postpartum depression are more likely to be in a violent relationship than moms without depression, and new mothers in abusive relationships are more likely to suffer postpartum depression, according to a new survey of women with infants.
"I think intuitively and clinically it's not surprising that there would be an overlap between depression and intimate partner violence," said Dr. Linda Chaudron, a psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who was not involved in this study.
The results provide clinicians with some guidance for screening women who show signs of postpartum depression or a violent relationship.
"That is a big message that we want to send, that if pediatricians have started screening for maybe one of these two and they detect one, they should be screening for the other," said Dr. Barry Solomon, a pediatrics professor at John's Hopkins Children's Center, and the lead author of the study.
Previous research on the overlap between postpartum depression and domestic violence has typically come from researchers that focus on the mothers' health.
But in recent years, pediatricians have increasingly adopted the practice of screening mothers for postpartum depression and domestic violence.
"It's come from growing evidence that mothers who are depressed or are in a relationship with violence, there are negative effects on children," Solomon told Reuters Health.
1 in 14 in violent relationship
Solomon and his colleagues took advantage of the frequent visits to the pediatrician that new moms make with their babies to explore how often violence in the home and depression co-occur.
In February, 2008 they started screening mothers with children under six months old who came to their clinic for healthy baby checkups.
Most of the women were African American and about one third of them were teenagers.
From the surveys that the moms filled out, the research team found that one out of four of the mothers appeared to have postpartum depression and one out of 14 was in a violent relationship.
The moms who screened positive for domestic violence were twice as likely to have postpartum depression.
More than 50 percent of women in violent relationships also screened positive for depression, compared to 22 percent of mothers who were not in violent relationships.
Similarly, women with postpartum depression were four times as likely to also screen positive for violence at home.
Four percent of women without depression and 16 percent of women with depression were in violent relationships.