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Mother breast feeding her baby.

A new study has found that women living in large urban centres in Canada have a higher risk of postpartum depression than women in less populated areas.

Postpartum depression can occur after a woman has given birth and is a serious health risk for both women and their babies.

The study was based on a 2006 national survey of almost 6,500 new mothers. It found that almost 10 per cent of those living in cities with a population of at least 500,000 reported experiencing postpartum depression.

That compares with 6 per cent of new mothers in rural areas, almost 7 per cent in semi-rural areas and about 5 per cent in semi-urban areas.

The study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says risk factors for postpartum depression include lack of social support and a history of depression.

Large urban centres have higher numbers of immigrant populations, and more women in these areas reported lower levels of social support during and after pregnancy.

"The risk factors for postpartum depression (including history of depression, social support and immigration status) that were unequally distributed across geographic regions accounted for most of the variance in the rates of postpartum depression," the authors write.

"Supports and services targeted toward increasing connections for isolated women in large urban centres may need to be increased in Canada," they write. "Considering the substantial negative effect of postpartum depression, such interventions could have a broad-reaching social and public health impact."

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