A team of researchers – including two affiliated with Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island – has concluded that increased parental stress faced by adolescent mothers increases their chance of suffering from postpartum depression.
Maureen G. Phipps, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and professor of epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Caron Zlotnick, of the hospital’s Division of Behavioral Health and a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Alpert School, were part of the research team that recently published “The Relationship between Parental Stress and Postpartum Depression Among Adolescent Mothers Enrolled in a Randomized Controlled Prevention Trial” in Maternal and Child Health Journal.
“Parental stress tends to be higher among teenage mothers, with everything from the affordability of childcare, to daily caretaking concerns, to balancing school or work and their baby causing them stress,” Phipps said in a statement. “We believe this is the first study to assess whether parental stress predicted depression among adolescent mothers.”
The researchers enrolled 106 participants through Women & Infants’ Center for Primary Care between 2007 and 2008 and followed them for 289 visits postpartum. The average age was 16 years. More than half of the teens self-identified as Hispanic, and 16% reported a past history of depression. Through the study, 19 girls were diagnosed with PPD and 25 percent of them experienced high levels of parental stress as long as six months postpartum.
“Adolescent mothers who reported higher levels of parental stress were at significantly increased risk for postpartum depression,” Phipps said. “We think that interventions targeting a reduction in parental stress may help adolescent mothers.”
Parenting stress is defined as an imbalance between the perceived demands of parenting and the perceived available resources. Many new mothers experience stress over finances, any family dysfunction and inexperience. Dr. Phipps says those stressors can impact adolescent mothers, who must deal with them without the benefit of maturity. If untreated, PPD has been shown to cause mothers to be less attached to their infants.