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New moms at higher risk for mental illnesses

New moms face increased risks for a variety of mental problems, not just postpartum depression, according to one of the largest studies of psychiatric illness after childbirth.

New dads aren't as vulnerable, probably because they don't experience the same physical and social changes associated with having a baby, the researchers and other experts said.

The study, based on medical records of 2.3-million people over 30 years in Denmark, found that the first three months after women have their first baby is riskiest, especially the first few weeks. It appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

During the first 10 to 19 days, new mothers were seven times more likely to be hospitalized with some form of mental illness than women with older infants. Compared to women with no children, new mothers were four times more likely to be hospitalized with mental problems. New mothers also were more likely than other women to get outpatient psychiatric treatment.

However, new fathers did not have a higher risk of mental problems when compared with fathers of older infants and men without children.

The prevalence of mental disorders was about 1 per 1,000 births for women and just 0.37 per 1,000 births for men.

Mental problems included postpartum depression, but also bipolar disorder, with altering periods of depression and mania; schizophrenia and similar disorders; and adjustment disorders, which can include debilitating anxiety.

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