A study published this week in the journal BMC Psychiatry indicates that women suffer from postnatal stress and anxiety in addition to often-reported depression. The study concludes that symptoms of anxiety and stress should be assessed in the early postnatal period.

A scale measuring anxiety and stress independently of depression allowed the research team to detect 61 women with depressive symptoms, and 33 other women who had symptoms of anxiety and stress, but free of depression.

There is growing awareness of postnatal depression, however, this study suggest that health care providers should also be aware of symptoms of stress and anxiety in their postnatal patients.

This new study was conducted by Julie Pallant and Renee Miller of Swinburne University of Technology and Lisa Negri from RMIT University, and assessed the levels of depression, anxiety and stress in 325 first-time mothers 6 weeks to- and 6 weeks postnatal. The researchers analyzed results and found that 33 women, or 10%, had symptoms of stress and anxiety independent of depression. This would not have been detected if the women had been assessed for depressive symptoms alone.

According to Miller et al., the focus on depression as the only indication of emotional distress in postnatal women means that women with anxious symptoms or stress are at increased risk of not receiving help.

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