Posttraumatic stress symptoms and postpartum depression in couples after childbirth: the role of partner support and attachment

J Anxiety Disord. 2011 May;25(4):520-30. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.12.006. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


Aim: The roles of partner attachment and perceptions of partner support were explored in relation to symptoms of posttraumatic stress and postpartum depression in couples within the first three postnatal months.

Methods: Participants (n=372) were recruited within the first seven days postpartum, and completed questionnaire measures of trait anxiety, symptoms of acute posttraumatic stress, and perceptions of partner support. Postal questionnaires were completed at six weeks and three months, assessing attachment, perception of partner support, symptoms of posttraumatic stress, and postpartum depression. Two hundred and twelve couples completed all time-points.

Results: Results indicated that symptoms were significantly related within couples. Men's acute trauma symptoms predicted their partner's subsequent symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Less secure attachment and dissatisfaction with partner support were associated with higher levels of postpartum depression and posttraumatic stress.

Conclusions: Men's and women's responses following childbirth appear to be strongly interlinked; services should target both members of the dyad.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires