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Mon 1 Jan 2007 03:02 PM

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First-time mothers at elevated risk of mental illness

First-time mothers are at increased risk for mental disorders, while fathers do not share that risk, claims new research.

First-time mothers are at increased risk for mental disorders, while fathers do not share that risk, claims new research.

In a 32-year study that included more than 2.3 million Danes, an average of 1.03 in 1,000 first time mothers were admitted to a psychiatric hospital with a mental illness within a year of the birth; and most within three months. Diagnoses included depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Mothers were four times more likely to face hospitalisation than women without children. Among fathers, only 0.37 of 1,000 births resulted in a mental disorder; a number comparable to childless men or those with an older infant.

The findings "indicate that the causes of postpartum mental disorders are more strongly linked to an altered physiological process related to pregnancy and childbirth than psychosocial aspects of motherhood," said lead author, Trine Munk-Olsen, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

The results could also reflect that mothers are more involved in the child- rearing process, particularly the demands of breastfeeding and sleep deprivation, and may be more affected by dramatic changes in lifestyle, the investigators concluded.

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