Women who’ve had postpartum depression may not have more than two children, a new study suggests.
Researchers examined data from more than 300 mothers born in the early to mid-20th century. Most of them lived in developed nations while raising their children, researchers said.
The investigators — led by Sarah Myers from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom — concluded that postpartum depression leads to lower fertility levels in women. They said this was especially true when the postpartum depression occurred after the birth of a first child. Higher levels of emotional distress after a first child reduced the likelihood of having a third child, but not a second child, researchers suggested.
Postpartum depression after both the first and second child appeared to reduce the chances of having a third child to the same extent as major birth complications, the study authors said.
However, it’s important to note that this study could only show an association between postpartum depression and the number of children a woman has. It wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was published recently in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. Until now, little has been known about how postpartum depression affects the number of children a woman will have, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about postpartum depression.