Postpartum depressive symptoms and the combined load of paid and unpaid work: a longitudinal analysis

  • Rada K. DagherEmail author
  • Patricia M. McGovern
  • Bryan E. Dowd
  • Ulf Lundberg
Original Article



To investigate the effects of total workload and other work-related factors on postpartum depression in the first 6 months after childbirth, utilizing a hybrid model of health and workforce participation.


We utilized data from the Maternal Postpartum Health Study collected in 2001 from a prospective cohort of 817 employed women who delivered in three community hospitals in Minnesota. Interviewers collected data at enrollment and 5 weeks, 11 weeks, and 6 months after childbirth. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale measured postpartum depression. Independent variables included total workload (paid and unpaid work), job flexibility, supervisor and coworker support, available social support, job satisfaction, infant sleep problems, infant irritable temperament, and breastfeeding.


Total average daily workload increased from 14.4 h (6.8 h of paid work; 7.1% working at 5 weeks postpartum) to 15.0 h (7.9 h of paid work; 87% working at 6 months postpartum) over the 6 months. Fixed effects regression analyses showed worse depression scores were associated with higher total workload, lower job flexibility, lower social support, an infant with sleep problems, and breastfeeding.


Working mothers of reproductive years may find the study results valuable as they consider merging their work and parenting roles after childbirth. Future studies should examine the specific mechanisms through which total workload affects postpartum depressive symptoms.


Total workload Postpartum depression Occupational health Maternal health 



This research was supported by grant # 5 R18 OH003605-05 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rada K. Dagher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patricia M. McGovern
    • 2
  • Bryan E. Dowd
    • 3
  • Ulf Lundberg
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Health Services AdministrationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental Health SciencesSchool of Public Health, University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Division of Health Policy and ManagementSchool of Public Health, University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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