Maternal mental health in the first 3-week postpartum: the impact of caregiver support and the subjective experience of childbirth - a longitudinal path model

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2012 Dec;33(4):176-84. doi: 10.3109/0167482X.2012.730584. Epub 2012 Nov 2.


Objective: Acute stress reactions (ASR) and postpartum depressive symptoms (PDS) are frequent after childbirth. The present study addresses the change and overlap of ASR and PDS from the 1- to 3-week postpartum and examines the interplay of caregiver support and subjective birth experience with regard to the development of ASR/PDS within a longitudinal path model.

Method: A total of 219 mothers completed questionnaires about caregiver support and subjective birth experience (Salmon's Item List) at 48-6-h postpartum. ASR and PDS were measured for 1- and 3-week postpartum. The Impact of Event Scale (IES) was used to assess ASR, and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was used to assess PDS.

Results: ASR was frequent 1-week postpartum (44.7%) and declined till week 3 (24.8%, p <.001), while the prevalence of PDS was continuous (14.2% week 1; 12.6% week 3; p = .380). Favorable reports of caregiver support were related to better subjective childbirth experience, which was related to lower ASR and PDS (controlled for age, mode of delivery, parity, EDA and duration of childbirth).

Conclusion: High quality of intrapartum care and positive birth experiences facilitate psychological adjustment in the first 3-week postpartum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Maternal Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Postnatal Care / organization & administration
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult