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Your Family Tree - The Impact of History of Mood Disorders

posted Oct 20, 2014, 9:49 PM by AndrewandSarah Witzel
Many women are aware of the impact of their prior mood disorders on the chances of developing a perinatal mood disorder. What is discussed less often is the impact of your family’s mental health history. A family history of any mood disorder increases your risk of PMD. This includes depression, bipolar disorder, and all perinatal mood disorders.

Actually getting your family mental health history can be challenging however. Many families are not comfortable discussing this topic. Especially in older generations, a formal psychiatric diagnosis may not be available, due to a lack of awareness and treatment options. However, because the symptoms of mood disorders are so profound, there is likely some understanding of which family members have struggled with mental illness.

How much does a family history of mood disorders increase risk of PMDs? In one study, 53.3% of the women with a family history of postpartum depression, whereas only 11.8% of the women without a family history developed PPD.

If you are pregnant or in the postpartum period, knowing about family mental health history is just as important as knowing your family history of diabetes, pre-eclampsia, or postpartum hemorrhage. Also remember to share your own mental health experiences with your own children when they are old enough to need and understand this information. This will not only empower your children to care for their own mental health, but it will help prevent the stigma of mental illness for future generations.