Postpartum depressive symptoms in the first 17 months after childbirth: the impact of an emotionally supportive partnership

Abstract

Objectives

This study investigates the impact on different postpartum depressive trajectories (i.e., “non depressive symptoms”, “stable depressive symptoms”, “deterioration” and “improvement”) from 5–17 months after childbirth exerted by emotional support that mothers receive from their partners and emotional support they provide to their partners.

Methods

Postpartum depressive symptoms were assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale 5 and 17 months after delivery in a sample of 293 mothers. Emotional support received from the partners was assessed among both mothers and partners.

Results

The initial level and the change in emotional support that mothers received from their partners were related to different trajectories of postpartum depressive symptoms. Mothers who were living in a partnership with low reciprocal emotional support showed a significantly higher risk of suffering from “stable depressive symptoms” than mothers who were living in a partnership with high reciprocal emotional support.

Conclusions

An increased risk of persistent depressive symptoms beyond the early postpartum period was observed in mothers with poor reciprocal emotional support in the partnership. Further research is needed for a better understanding of the mothers persistent depressive symptoms after childbirth associated with reciprocity of emotional support in the partnership.

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Acknowledgments

This study was conducted within the research project “Substance use and psychosocial risk of mothers in Switzerland”, which was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (SFOPH Decree No 03.001623 to Prof. Dr. A. Grob). The study was run at the Department of Personality, Individual Differences and Diagnostics, University of Berne, and at the Department of Personality and Developmental Psychology, University of Basel. We thank Dr. Heather Murray for her invaluable help in proofreading the manuscript and above all the mothers and fathers who participated in this study.

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Correspondence to Daniela Bielinski-Blattmann.

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Bielinski-Blattmann, D., Lemola, S., Jaussi, C. et al. Postpartum depressive symptoms in the first 17 months after childbirth: the impact of an emotionally supportive partnership. Int J Public Health 54, 333 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-009-0056-4

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Keywords

  • Postpartum women
  • Trajectories of symptoms of postnatal depression
  • Social support
  • Partnership after childbirth