Risk factors for postpartum depressive symptoms in low-income women with very low-birth-weight infants

Adv Neonatal Care. 2015 Feb;15(1):E3-8. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000131.


Purpose: This study examined factors associated with postpartum depressive symptoms in mothers with premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Subjects: A total of 113 new mothers with very low-birth-weight infants in their initial NICU admission were recruited from 2 urban hospitals servicing low-income minority communities.

Design: This study employed a cross-sectional design.

Methods: Data were collected during the infants' postpartum NICU admission and included maternal demographic information (eg, age, education, race, living with the baby's father), infant illness severity (Neurobiologic Risk Score from infant's medical record), and maternal psychological measures (the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, the Perinatal Posttraumatic Stress Questionnaire, and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory).

Results: The findings indicated that 47 (42%) women had elevated postpartum depressive symptoms and 33 (30%) women had elevated postpartum posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSs). Factors associated with postpartum depressive symptoms included PTS, anxiety, maternal age, and whether the mother lived with the baby's father (F₄, ₁₀₄ = 52.27, P < .001). The severity of the infants' illness, parental stress, and maternal education were not associated with depressive symptoms among low-income mothers of NICU infants.

Conclusions: On the basis of our findings, we recommend that low-income women should be screened for symptoms of anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and postpartum depression on their infants' admission to the NICU. When this is not feasible, we advise NICU healthcare providers to assess women for familial support, maternal age, posttraumatic stress related to their infants birth, and anxiety to determine which mothers are at the greatest risk for postpartum depressive symptoms. Screening for postpartum depression in the NICU can aid in early identification and treatment, thereby decreasing negative consequences for mothers and their infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Puerperal Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data