Postpartum Depression and Mass Media

About 13 to 19% of new mothers experience depression in the first year after birth. Most of them are never identified nor diagnosed. New mothers often read about pregnancy, giving birth and raising their children in popular magazines. It’s eminent that adequate information in these magazines about postpartum depression is of importance. A recent study evaluated the information on postpartum depression in these popular magazines in the period from 1998 to 2006. Does the information on postpartum depression in popular lay magazines correspond to scientific knowledge?

Their conclusion was

Although some of the articles reviewed for this study contained accurate and helpful information, many articles were still full of contradictory statements or confusing and sometimes inaccurate information.

They identified 47 articles, 44 met their inclusion criteria for postpartum depression and only 3 matched their criteria when searching for “baby blues”. Many of the articles were vague or incomplete in their definitions of postpartum depression. 70% of the articless were right about prevalence of the disorder and 32% were wrong in their description of the time of onset, 56% did not specify a time of onset of postpartum depression. A wide variety of specific causes and risk factors were discussed in the reviewed articles such as sleepless nights, unexpected birth outcome, troubled relationship with their own mother, conflict with spouse, etc.

None of the articles listed all of the symptoms. Of all the articles, about 32% revolved around a celebrity’s experience with postpartum depression. Few of the articles identified their resources.

it is remarkably easy for women to find information about how to have a happy and healthy childbirth and parenting experience,but stunningly difficult for women to get clear and helpful information on PPD

In a study on the accuracy of information on websites about postpartum depression only 5 sites out of 34 provided more than 75% correct responses to questions about postpartum depression. Eleven of these 34 sites contained little or no useful information, Practical Parents in Training gives awesome advice for new parents to overcome this situation, PPD usually isn’t a condition that you can treat on your own. 

Luckily for Dutch reading audience of this blog there is an excellent site about pregnancy and psychiatry, het landelijk kenniscentrum Psychiatrie en Zwangerschap. Are you aware of any English site about postpartum depression, please let me know in the comments for other readers.
Schanie, C., Pinto-Foltz, M., & Logsdon, M. (2008). Analysis of Popular Press Articles Concerning Postpartum Depression: 1998–2006 Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 29 (11), 1200-1216 DOI: 10.1080/01612840802370509