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An Investigation of Postpartum Depression

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An Investigation of Postpartum Depression

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The recent Andrea Yates murder trial brought a firestorm of controversy as the issue of postpartum depression (PPD) became a debated topic throughout the country. Did Andrea truly suffer from psychosis as she drowned her five children in the bathtub or was such defense a scheme to avoid the death sentence? Prosecutors suggested the spousal-revenge theory as a motive for the killings. Could she have committed murder to get back at a possessive and domineering husband? (1).

The outcome of the trial was by no means exceptional as it was a murder case, which resulted in a life sentence conviction. It did however, create awareness within the medical field and mainstream public about the historical connection between pregnancy and psychiatric illness. Unfortunately such dialogue also brought long standing misconstrued notions which must be eradicated.

Mental illness has been a reality not only for Yates but for millions of women throughout the country. Depression tends to be one of the most prevalent consequences of childbearing as 50% of new mothers report slight bouts of depression, 10% have manic depression and .2% suffer from psychosis(2). Yonkers et. al, further investigated postpartum depression rates for minority women in comparison to their Caucasian counterparts. After conducting a postpartum three trial screening which included the Structured Clinical Interview, it was found that depression rates for Latino, Blacks and White racial groups was between 6.5% to 8.5% (3). Regardless of race, all groups of women were susceptible to similar rates of PPD at 3-5 weeks postpartum. Other studies have found that depressive disorders begin even before giving birth...

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...s the need for changes in the current "drive thru" system of childbirth. Hospital stays have been reduced as new mothers are quickly sent home without medical resources at their disposal(8).

The Andrea Yates trial was significant in that it raised awareness of mental illness under a media firestorm. It made the American public aware of the potential actions such illness can cause a person to do. Dialogue, however, is not a sufficient means in which to properly target and treat PPD. The medical establishment must ensure prevention through mental health screenings and subsequent psychiatric check-ups for new mothers. Through educational campaigns, awareness must be brought to the masses so that the stigma attached to mental illness be eradicated. Hopefully, people will seek proper treatment as there are millions suffering with depression in isolation and silence.
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