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One in five or 21 percent of new mothers who experience postpartum mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, do not disclose their symptoms to healthcare providers, a study shows.

Over 10-20 percent of women experience significant mood disorders after childbirth, and those disorders can adversely affect the physical and emotional well-being of both mothers and children. 

"Our study finds that many women who would benefit from treatment are not receiving it, because they don't tell anyone that they're dealing with any challenges," said Betty-Shannon Prevatt, clinical psychologist and doctoral student at North Carolina State University.

The study found that women who were unemployed, had a history of mental health problems or were experiencing severe symptoms were more likely to not to report to doctors.

Coversely, women experiencing the highest levels of stress, as well as those with the strongest social support networks, were most likely to report their symptoms to healthcare providers.

For the study, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, the team conducted an anonymous survey of women who had given birth within the previous three years. 

Survey responses showed that 51 percent of study participants met the criteria for postpartum mood disorders. 

However, more than one in five of those who experienced these did not disclose their problems to healthcare providers.

"The study highlights the importance of support networks and the need to normalise the wide variety of reactions women have after childbirth," Prevatt said. 

"We need to make it OK for women to talk about their mental health, so that they can have better access to care. Working with the people around new mothers may be key," Prevatt added.