Frequency of "Time for Self" Is a Significant Predictor of Postnatal Depressive Symptoms: Results from a Prospective Pregnancy Cohort Study

Birth. 2016 Mar;43(1):58-67. doi: 10.1111/birt.12210. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Background: We aimed to explore the relationship between frequency of time for self and maternal depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of 1,507 first-time mothers in Australia, recruited in early pregnancy with follow-up at 6 months postpartum, was conducted. Scores of more than or equal to 13 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale were used to identify depressive symptoms.

Results: Of 1,507 women recruited to the study, 92.6 percent completed follow-up at 6 months postpartum. Almost half (48.5%) reported having time for themselves when someone else looked after their baby (time for self) once a week or more. Compared with women who reported less frequent time for self, women who had time for themselves once a week or more were less likely to report depressive symptoms (unadjusted OR 0.44 [95% CI 0.30-0.66]). Women who had more frequent time for themselves were more likely to have more practical and emotional support. However, this only partially explained the relationship between time for self and depressive symptoms, which remained significant in regression models after adjusting for other recognized risk factors for maternal depression, including social support (adjusted OR 0.60 [95% CI 0.39-0.94]).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that having time for self at least once a week in the first 6 months after childbirth may have a beneficial influence on maternal mental health. Ensuring women get regular respite from the challenges of caring for a young baby may be a relatively simple and effective way of promoting maternal mental health in the year after childbirth.

Keywords: postnatal depression; prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Health
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time*
  • Young Adult