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Release: Aug. 26, 2002

O'Hara to speak about effects of depression on women, children Aug. 31

The leading cause of lost years of healthy life in women worldwide is not breast cancer, heart disease or diabetes. It is depression, and it affects women earlier in their lives than ever before.

Michael O'Hara, professor of psychology and associate dean for research and development in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will discuss causes, consequences and treatments for depression in his presentation, "Motherhood, Is It Bad for Your Health: What Your Mother Didn't Tell You," on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall. The discussion is part of the Saturday Scholars series, presented by the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

While depression was once the domain of those in late middle age, O'Hara said that the average age of depression onset has gone down and prevalence has gone up in each successive generation since World War II. Now the period of risk for depression coincides with the prime childbearing years for women.

O'Hara, who has been studying postpartum depression since the late 1970s and is considered the leading expert in the field in the United States, said learning to recognize the symptoms of depression is vital to preserving the health of women and their children.

"When women are depressed during pregnancy and following childbirth, it has a major impact on the child's well-being," O'Hara said. "A lot of women are ashamed that they feel depressed at a time when they should be happy so they won't admit their feelings."

It's also very common for family members to attribute the symptoms to other causes such as sleep deprivation because it has an obvious solution—more rest. With depression, most people don't know what to do, O'Hara says.

Women who are or plan to become pregnant, as well as their family members and friends, will want to hear what O'Hara has to say about what can be done to mitigate and treat postpartum depression. He will speak for about 20 minutes and then take questions from the audience.

O'Hara has taught in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 1980. He is a past president of the Marcé Society (the leading international society for the study of postpartum psychiatric disorders) and the Society for Research in Psychopathology. In September, he will travel to Sydney, Australia to receive the Marcé Medal at the group's biennial meeting in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the study of postpartum psychiatric disorders.

In a preview of his Aug. 31 presentation, O'Hara will be a guest on "Iowa Talks," WSUI, AM-910, Thursday, Aug. 29, at 10 a.m.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Sept. 14 -- "The Big, the Violent, and the Expensive: How We Make Pictures of War," David Wittenberg, assistant professor of English and of cinema and comparative literature

Sept. 28 -- "The Dead Speak: Lessons from Tyrannosaur," Chris Brochu, assistant professor of geoscience

Oct. 12 -- "Jewish Women in India: Rethinking the Middle East," Jael Silliman, associate professor of women's studies

Oct. 26 -- "Just Beneath My Skin: Autobiography and Self-Discovery," Patricia Foster, associate professor of English

Nov. 9 -- "The Neanderthal Mystery: Who Were They and Why Did They Disappear?" Robert Franciscus, assistant professor of anthropology

All presentations will begin at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. Each session will last about an hour, including a 20- to 30-minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. Refreshments will be served.

Additional information is available at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.