Objective: to evaluate the impact of social support on postnatal depression and health-related quality of life.
Design: prospective cohort study. Data were collected at baseline and at six weeks post discharge using a postal survey.
Setting and participants: between August and December 2008, 320 women from a large tertiary hospital were recruited following the birth of their infant.
Measurements: Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Maternity Social Support Scale and World Health Organization Quality of Life assessment questionnaire.
Findings: of the 320 women recruited, 222 (69.4%) returned their six-week questionnaire. Women with low social support had significantly higher scores on the EPDS than women who reported adequate support (p = 0.007). There was also a significant effect of social support on health-related quality of life. Women with low family or partner support scored lower in all domains, with the greatest mean difference in the social health domain (p = 0.000). Of those scoring >10 on the EPDS, 75.5% had sought professional help.
Conclusions and implications for practice: women with low social support are more likely to report postnatal depression and lower quality of life than well-supported women. Careful assessment of a woman's level of support following the birth, particularly from her partner and family, may provide useful information for possible interventions.
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