Associations among postpartum depression, eating disorders, and perfectionism in a population-based sample of adult women

Int J Eat Disord. 2006 Apr;39(3):202-11. doi: 10.1002/eat.20243.


Objective: The current study investigated associations among eating disorders, depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum, and perfectionism in a population-based sample of women.

Method: Females who reported > or = 1 pregnancy (N = 1,119) completed questionnaires assessing perfectionism, eating disorder symptomatology, and depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Information regarding participants' history of major depressive disorder (MDD) was also available from structured psychiatric interviews completed during a previous wave of data collection.

Results: Depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum were high among women with a history of eating disorders. Both binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN) were positively associated with symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD), even when lifetime MDD was controlled. However, logistic regression indicated that women with a history of BN and BED are at particular risk of developing PPD symptomatology. Linear regression analyses conducted with the subset of the sample who endorsed a PPD screening item suggested that the severity of PPD symptomatology may be attributable to Concern Over Mistakes, a specific aspect of perfectionism.

Conclusion: These results highlight the importance of assessing specific features of perfectionism. In addition, they suggest that women with BN, BED, or high Concern over Mistakes may be at particular risk of developing PPD symptoms, and could benefit from prenatal screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Bulimia Nervosa / epidemiology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires