(HealthDay News) – Postpartum anxiety is more common than depression in the days and months following delivery, and is associated with adverse maternal heath outcomes and reduced duration of breastfeeding, according to a study published online March 4 in Pediatrics.

Ian M. Paul, MD, from Penn State University in Hershey, and colleagues compared correlates of anxiety with correlates of depression among 1,123 mothers with “well” newborns born ≥34 weeks’ gestation. To assess health care use, breastfeeding duration, anxiety, and depression, participants were interviewed in-person during the postpartum stay and by telephone surveys at two weeks, two months, and six months. All participants planned to breastfeed.

The researchers found that, at baseline, 17% of participants were positive on the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and 6% were positive on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Survey (EPDS). There was a significant association between primiparity and a positive STAI (20% vs. 15%; P=0.02), but not a positive EPDS (4% vs. 7%; P=0.05). Cesarean delivery, reduced duration of breastfeeding, and increased maternal, but not infant, total unplanned health care utilization within two weeks of delivery were all significantly associated with positive STAI scores. At each assessment through six months postpartum, positive STAI scores occurred more frequently than positive EPDS scores.

“Postpartum state anxiety is a common, acute phenomenon during the maternity hospitalization that is associated with increased maternal health care utilization after discharge and reduced breastfeeding duration,” write the authors. “State anxiety screening during the postpartum stay could improve these outcomes.”

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