Depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence in the 12 months after childbirth: a prospective pregnancy cohort study

BJOG. 2012 Feb;119(3):315-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03219.x. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


Objective: To examine maternal depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy and explore their relationship with intimate partner violence in the 12 months after birth.

Design: Prospective pregnancy cohort study of nulliparous women.

Setting: Melbourne, Australia.

Population: In all, 1507 eligible women completed baseline data (mean gestation 15 weeks). Analyses are presented for 1305 women who completed all follow-up questionnaires.

Methods: Women were recruited from six public hospitals at between 6 and 24 weeks of gestation. Written questionnaires were completed at recruitment and at 3, 6 and 12 months postpartum.

Main outcome measures: Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Intimate partner violence was assessed using the short version of the Composite Abuse Scale.

Results: Sixteen per cent of women reported depressive symptoms (EPDS ≥ 13) in the 12 months postpartum, with most women first reporting depressive symptoms in the second 6 months after birth. Around 40% of women reporting depressive symptoms at each follow up also reported intimate partner violence. Factors associated with postpartum depressive symptoms in multivariable models were: emotional abuse alone (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.72, 95% CI 1.72-4.13), physical abuse (adjusted OR 3.94, 95% CI 2.44-6.36), depression in pregnancy (adjusted OR 2.89, 95% CI 1.75-4.77) and unemployment in early pregnancy (adjusted OR 1.60, 95% CI 1.03-2.48).

Conclusions: Screening for maternal depression at 3 months postpartum or earlier may miss over half the women with depression in the first 12 months after birth. Intimate partner violence is common among women reporting postnatal depressive symptoms and may be an important factor for health professionals to consider in their management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult