Postpartum Depression, Women Veterans, and Breast Cancer

By Rachel Walden — April 14, 2008

A recent edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report presents results of a 17-state survey of women who had recently given birth who answered questions about their experience of post-partum depression. Rather than needing to know a technical definition of PPD, women were asked questions such as “Since your new baby was born, how often have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?” and 2) “Since your new baby was born, how often have you had little interest or little pleasure in doing things?”

The researchers found that self-reported symptoms of PPD ranged from 11.7%-20.4%, depending on the state. Women who reported emotional, traumatic, partner-related, and financial stressors during pregnancy, and those who smoked or were physically abused during pregnancy were more likely to report symptoms. Women who were younger, less-educated, and who received Medicaid at the time of delivery were also more likely to report symptoms. The editors note that this information could be used to better target women for screening and intervention.

In other news, a vaccine intended to boost the immune system and prevent breast cancer recurrence and/or improve recurrence outcomes will start Phase III clinical trials soon, according to this news item, meaning that the researchers are moving beyond safety/dosage considerations to assess whether the vaccine is likely to actually improve outcomes. A previous small study (Amin, 2008) of the vaccine found lower recurrence and mortality rates in those vaccinated subjects who had breast cancer recurrences when compared with controls.

Finally, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008 (S. 2799) has been introduced by Senator Patty Murray. Requirements of the legislation would include a long-term study on the health of women veterans who served on active duty in Iraq, an assessment of barriers to health care for women in the VA system, and training for providers on the care of women who have suffered sexual trauma and those with post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill also includes provisions for a child care pilot program to assist veteran caretakers during the course of receiving treatments. At present, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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