Correlates of Early Postpartum Depressive Symptoms

  • Elizabeth A. HowellEmail author
  • Pablo Mora
  • Howard Leventhal

Background: Postpartum depressive symptoms negatively affect the quality of life and daily functioning of mothers and infants. Little research has examined the impact of situational factors such as physical symptom burden and function on early postpartum depressive symptoms. Objectives: To explore the association between situational factors and early postpartum depressive symptoms. To predict correlates of early postpartum depressive symptoms. Methods: Cross sectional telephone survey of 720 mothers between 2 and 6 weeks postpartum. Mothers reported on demographic factors, physical and psychological symptoms, daily function, infant behaviors, social support, and skills in managing infant and household. The association between these factors and postpartum depressive symptoms were investigated with bivariate and multivariable analyses. Results: Nearly, 39% of patients screened positive for depressive symptoms. Bivariate analyses showed symptomatic patients were more likely to be nonwhite, have lower incomes, less education, a past history of depression, have higher physical symptom burdens, more physical functional limitations, more infant colic, receive less social support, and have lower-self-efficacy scores as compared with patients without symptoms of depression. In a multivariable model predicting depressive symptoms, nonwhite race (odds ratio (OR) of 1.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.38, 2.78), more physical symptoms (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.01, 1.32), infant colic (OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.29, 2.50) lack of social support (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.86, 0.95), and lower self-efficacy scores (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.86, 0.94) were associated with depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Nonwhite race, physical symptom burden, infant colic, lack of social support, and lower self-efficacy scores are associated with early postpartum depressive symptoms. Further research is needed to investigate whether providing social support and teaching skills to enhance self-efficacy will reduce the incidence of early postpartum symptoms of depression.


postpartum depression social support 



The research reported here was Supported by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Howell
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Pablo Mora
    • 2
  • Howard Leventhal
    • 3
  1. 1.Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Health PolicyMount Sinai Medical CenterNew York CityUSA
  2. 2.The Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging ResearchThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health PolicyMount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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