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Maternal psychological growth following childbirth

Abstract

Although maternal postpartum mental health has been extensively studied, rather little is known regarding the factors that may facilitate psychological growth following childbirth. The present study set forth to examine various pre-birth, birth, and post-birth correlates of overall psychological growth and growth domains in postpartum women, assessed within the first months following childbirth. A sample of 428 women completed self-report measures pertaining to psychological growth, mental health, maternal attachment, and childbirth characteristics. We found that the majority of women reported psychological growth following childbirth, with those experiencing stressors in childbirth reporting the highest levels of appreciation for life. In regression analyses, postpartum factors were significantly associated with overall growth and growth domains, taking into account other factors. The more the childbirth was perceived as central to the mothers’ identity and the better the maternal attachment was to the child, the higher levels of growth. Growth was also negatively related to endorsement of childbirth PTSD. Background factors, such as maternal age, education, and prior mental health, were associated with specific growth domains, although the association was small and there was no association with overall growth. Post-birth factors are important in ensuing psychological growth in the first months following birth. Attention to opportunities of growth following childbirth is warranted in clinical care, in particular following traumatic childbirth.

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Acknowledgment

The authors would like to thank Ms. Shannon Henning for her generous support in initiating this research project.

Funding

Dr. Dekel was supported by an award (ISF) from Massachusetts General Hospital Executive Committee on Research.

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Correspondence to Sharon Dekel.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Partners (Massachusetts General Hospital) Human Research Committee granted this study exemption.

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This study entailed an anonymous online survey; no personal identifiable information was collected. Participants were informed that by agreeing to complete the study survey, they are implying their consent to participate in the study.

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Berman, Z., Thiel, F., Dishy, G.A. et al. Maternal psychological growth following childbirth. Arch Womens Ment Health 24, 313–320 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-020-01053-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-020-01053-9

Keywords

  • Psychological growth
  • Childbirth
  • Childbirth-related posttraumatic stress
  • Maternal attachment