Predictors of Early Postpartum Maternal Functioning Among Women Veterans

Matern Child Health J. 2022 Jan;26(1):149-155. doi: 10.1007/s10995-021-03241-0. Epub 2021 Oct 9.


Introduction: The perinatal period constitutes an important window of opportunity for optimizing healthy development of offspring but is heavily influenced by maternal mental health. Maternal pregnancy-related anxiety (PrA), depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been implicated in adverse outcomes for both mother and child. The current study examined whether psychopathology during pregnancy and postpartum was associated with greater experienced parenting stress and bonding difficulties in women veterans, who may be predisposed to develop psychopathology due to heightened risk of exposure to traumatic events.

Methods: Pregnant veterans (N = 28) completed self-report questionnaires regarding their PrA, depression and PTSD symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum, as well as on their experience of parenting stress and bonding with their infant.

Results: PrA was a more robust predictor of postpartum depression (PPD) than depression during pregnancy. PPD, in turn, was significantly associated with bonding and parenting stress, such that more depressed mothers were more likely to experience greater general bonding difficulties, increased rejections and pathological anger towards their infants, greater anxiety towards their infants, and more parenting stress.

Conclusions: PrA might be a high-yield modifiable risk factor in the prevention of PPD for women veterans and their subsequent experiences with high parenting stress and bonding difficulties.

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers
  • Object Attachment
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Veterans*