Working and short-term memories are impaired in postpartum depression

J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):1238-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.09.031. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


Background: Postpartum depression affects parents of newborns. Major depression causes cognitive prejudice. Nothing is known about memory impairment in those affected of postpartum depression. This study has a purpose to assess working and short-term memories during the postpartum period in mothers and fathers in the city of Pelotas, RS, Brazil and also to correlate the changes in memory with postpartum depression, sociodemographic factors and possible confounding factors.

Methods: This cross-sectional study includes families assisted by the public health system. The sample consisted of fathers and mothers of live births, born from March to December 2008. The participants were evaluated during home visits using the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the word span test. The cutoff point for depression in the EPDS scores was ≥13, and the word span scores were evaluated as discrete variables.

Results: The sample consisted of 395 individuals (222 women and 173 men). The prevalence of depression was 16.2% among mothers and 5.2% among fathers. Depressed individuals performed worse on the memory test.

Limitations: The number of men evaluated was smaller than that of women. That's a transversal study, so we have the prevalence bias.

Conclusions: This study shows that postpartum depression affects both men and women, and the symptoms of depression affect the working and short-term memories of affected individuals. Given that this was a larger study than those in the literature, the results emphasize the importance of detecting and treating postpartum depression and helping affected families.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brazil
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult