The emotional bond that a mother feels towards her baby is critical to social, emotional and cognitive development. Maternal health and wellbeing through pregnancy and antenatal bonding also play a key role in determining bonding postnatally, but the extent to which these relationships may be disrupted by poor mental health or substance use is unclear. This study aimed to examine the extent to which mother-fetal bonding, substance use and mental health through pregnancy predicted postnatal mother-infant bonding at 8 weeks. Participants were 372 women recruited from three metropolitan hospitals in Australia. Data was collected during trimesters one, two and three of pregnancy and 8 weeks postnatal using the Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale (MAAS), Maternal Postnatal Attachment Scale (MPAS), the Edinburgh Antenatal and Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the Depression and Anxiety Scales (DASS-21), frequency and quantity of substance use (caffeine, alcohol and tobacco) as well as a range of demographic and postnatal information. Higher antenatal bonding predicted higher postnatal bonding at all pregnancy time-points in a fully adjusted regression model. Maternal depressive symptoms in trimesters two and three and stress in trimester two were inversely related to poorer mother-infant bonding 8 weeks postnatally. This study extends previous work on the mother’s felt bond to her developing child by drawing on a large sample of women and documenting the pattern of this bond at three time points in pregnancy and at 8 weeks postnatally. Utilising multiple antenatal waves allowed precision in isolating the relationships in pregnancy and at key intervention points. Investigating methods to enhance bonding and intervene in pregnancy is needed. It is also important to assess maternal mental health through pregnancy.
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The research was funded by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant #GNT630517 for $2,196,179 to Richard P Mattick, Delyse Hutchinson, Steve Allsop, Jake Najman, Elizabeth Elliott, Lucy Burns, Sue Jacobs, Craig A Olsson and Anne Bartu, and was financially supported by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of NewSouth Wales (UNSW), and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University. NDARC and NDRI are funded by the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvements Grants Fund. Richard P Mattick is financially supported by an NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship Award from the NHMRC; Delyse Hutchinson is financially supported by an Australian Unity Industry Partner Senior Research Fellowship; Craig Olsson is supported by an Australian Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (DORA: DP 130101459); and, Elizabeth Elliott is supported by an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship (#1021480).
We gratefully acknowledge the investigators not listed as authors; the research staff and students who assisted with collection of the data; the hospitals and antenatal clinics for their assistance with recruitment; and, the study participants and their families. We also wish to acknowledge the Longitudinal Cohorts Research Consortium (LCRC; Formerly the Cannabis Cohorts Research Consortium; NHMRC Project Grants: AAP1009381, AAP1064893).
Conflicts of interest
We do not have any conflicts of interest affecting the conduct or reporting of this research.
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Rossen, L., Hutchinson, D., Wilson, J. et al. Predictors of postnatal mother-infant bonding: the role of antenatal bonding, maternal substance use and mental health. Arch Womens Ment Health 19, 609–622 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-016-0602-z
- Maternal bonding
- Mental health
- Substance use