In a screening study, new mothers underwent four different courses: Three quarters had few depressive symptoms over a three-year period; nearly 13% had symptoms when their child was 4 months old but improved later; 8% had few symptoms initially but developed more severe symptoms as the child grew; and 4.5% had persistent depressive symptoms. In the survey, mothers were asked five questions about depressive symptoms when their child was 4 months old and again when their child was 1, 2, and 3 years old. BACKGROUND: Diana Putnik, PhD Fellow Fellow, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland; Rahul Gupta, MD, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Chief Sanitary Inspector, Marsh Dimes, Arlington, Va; Pediatrics, Out. Of the approximately 4,900 new mothers, followed by researchers, a quarter suffered from depressive symptoms at some point during their child’s first three years of life. All evidence suggests that women suffering from postpartum depression should study postpartum depression for a longer period of time, Chief Investigator Diana Putnik said. “Our study shows that it would be difficult to know the course of depressive symptoms in women if they were monitored only for six months,” Putnik said. But women’s family doctors need to be involved, Gupta said, especially since postpartum depression can persist after delivery or occur relatively late. Regular checkups are also important, “she” added, because women may not recognize certain issues – such as sleep disorders, fatigue or changes in appetite – as related to depression. That’s partly because postpartum depression is now common, and partly because babies are often seen during those months, Putnik said. “Based on our data, I would say the study could go on for two years,” said Putnick, a research fellow at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. But the results show that symptoms of postpartum depression may be persistent or appear relatively late. Mothers are not their patients, so they do not have access to medical records to get the full picture – even if the woman has a history of clinical depression. She says mothers’ symptoms should be monitored during routine checkups of their children during the first six months of life. According to Putnik, the study was conducted before the AAP recommendations were published, and it is unclear what kind of screening or follow-up studies women might have received from their own service providers.