New Year's Baby

Kaycee Nelson sits in bed with her family and holds her newborn baby, Khloe Hodgins, at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. According to Wyoming’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, Cowboy State women who gave birth in 2017 reported high rates of depression before, during and after pregnancy.

CASPER — Wyoming women who gave birth in 2017 reported high rates of depression before, during and after pregnancy, according to a new state report that also reveals the insurance and income-related issues facing mothers in the Cowboy State.

More than 19 percent of women who gave birth two years ago reported having depression before they became pregnant, according to the state’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System. Just over 15 percent said they were depressed while pregnant, and 12.7 percent indicated they had symptoms of postpartum depression.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 women in the U.S. report being depressed.

“The depression, postpartum depression is a really big deal for us in Wyoming,” said Lorie Chesnut, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, which collected the data. “We see it in a lot of our moms.”

The latest PRAMS report provides a treasure trove of raw data about pregnant women and new moms in Wyoming, from the obesity rate and prenatal vitamin use to drug use and insurance rates. It also provides more proof that Wyoming’s residents continue to struggle with depression.

The report culled its 22 pages of findings from a survey of nearly 70 questions sent to new moms. It shows that nearly 18 percent of women who gave birth in Wyoming in 2017 had a total household income of $16,000 or less, more than $40,000 below the median household income of the state. The data also show that before pregnancy, more than 16 percent of women didn’t have insurance, a figure that dropped to 5 percent during pregnancy but jumped back to more than 16 percent again three months after birth.

Chesnut said the depression figures in Wyoming have not been statistically different for the past several years, owing partly to the state’s low population. It’s also hard to compare the findings to national data, as the CDC — which aggregates the data across states that send out PRAMS studies to new moms — has not released 2017 national data yet.

But the CDC did provide comparative figures for depression in 2016, which showed broadly that Wyoming women were more likely to report symptoms of the condition than their peers where other PRAMS surveys were conducted. That year, 17.3 percent of women in Wyoming said they were depressed in the three months before they became pregnant, compared to 12.3 percent elsewhere. Wyoming topped the PRAMS average for depression symptoms while pregnant as well, with 16.6 percent of women saying they had symptoms vs. 11.7 percent elsewhere.

It’s only in postpartum depression where the state was below the average in 2016: 11.4 percent of women in Wyoming said they were depressed after giving birth compared to 12.9 percent nationally.

Christina Taylor, who manages the Health Department’s women and infant health program, said the rates, at least for postpartum depression, can be partially explained by better screening. But she said the condition’s prevalence is rising nationwide as well.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if left untreated, “postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby and may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.”

The CDC lists stressful life events as a factor that can lead to depression. Wyoming’s 2017 PRAMS report showed the events that affected moms-to-be. Nearly 38 percent said they moved to a new address. About 19 percent said they faced a cut in hours or pay at work while pregnant. More than 16 percent said they had bills they couldn’t pay.

“About 50 percent of pregnant women have financial stressors [in Wyoming],” Chesnut said.

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