Women who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia following the live birth of their first child are less likely to go on to have more children, according to a study.
The study, published on Monday in the journal Human Reproduction, found that 69 per cent of women who experienced postpartum psychiatric disorders within the first six months after the birth of their first baby went on to have further children.
This contrasts with 82 per cent of mothers who did not experience psychiatric problems, the researchers said.
“An important message to women who have a history of severe postpartum psychiatric disorders is that it is possible to prevent relapse,” said Xiaoqin Liu, a post-doctoral researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“We recommend that they seek help from their family doctors or psychiatrists if they want to have another child, so that plans for treatment that are specific for their individual needs can be made to reduce the risk of relapse,” said Liu.
Previous research has shown that, overall, around three per cent of women develop psychiatric disorders in the first three months after childbirth.
These disorders encompass a wide range of mental health problems and usually involve a combination of abnormal thoughts, behaviours and relationships with other people.
To date, there has been little research into whether or not this affects women’s subsequent reproduction.
“We wanted to explore whether women with postpartum psychiatric disorders had a reduced possibility of having a second child,” Liu said.
The researchers analysed data from Danish registries for 414,571 women who had their first live birth between 1997 and 2015 in Denmark.
They followed the women for a maximum of 19.5 years until the next live birth, emigration, death, their 45th birthday or June 2016, whichever occurred first.
The researchers identified women with postpartum psychiatric disorders by seeing if they were given prescriptions for psychotropic medications or had hospital contact for psychiatric disorders during the first six months after the live birth of their first child.
A total of 4,327 of women experienced psychiatric disorders following the birth of their first child, the researchers said.
These women were a third less likely to have a second live birth compared to women who did not experience psychiatric disorders, they said.
If the first child died, the difference in subsequent live birth rates disappeared.
However, if the psychiatric problem required hospitalisation, the likelihood of a woman having a second child nearly halved and this remained the case irrespective of whether the first child survived or not.