Social support before and after childbirth is a possible protective factor for perinatal depression. Currently, there is a lack of longitudinal studies beyond the first year postpartum exploring the relationship of social support with depression and anxiety. Social support is also a possible protective factor for adverse child development, which is a known consequence of perinatal depression. The present study followed up a cohort of depressed women (n = 54) from a randomised controlled trial of psychological treatment for antenatal depression. We examined the trajectory of the relationships between perceived social support (Social Provisions Scale), depression (Beck Depression Inventory), and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory) twice in pregnancy and twice postpartum up to two years. The influence of social support on child development and parenting-related stress was also explored. Two aspects of social support, Reassurance of Worth and Reliable Alliance, were strongly related to perinatal depression and anxiety, particularly when predicting symptoms in late pregnancy. However, the effect of postnatal depression on child development at 9 and 24 months post-birth was not mediated by social support. These results suggest the importance of adjusting current interventions for depressed perinatal women to focus on social support in late pregnancy and the first six months postpartum.
Keywords: antenatal anxiety; antenatal depression; child development; parenting stress; postnatal anxiety; postnatal depression; social support.