A new study out today has found that 40 percent of women who report being depressed after the birth of their child also are the victims of partner abuse. The abuse mostly takes the form of emotional abuse rather than physical violence, but both are prevalent.
Previous research suggests the prevalence of postpartum depression in mothers is between 6.5 percent to 12.9 percent during the first year after a child’s birth.
“Depression after childbirth has received a lot of attention in recent decades,” said Hannah Woolhouse of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Victoria, Australia and co-author of the paper.
“Known risk factors for developing postnatal depression include a history of depression, poor partner relationships, stressful life events/social health issues, low social support, and low income.
“Our findings indicate that intimate partner violence is very common among women reporting postnatal depressive symptoms, and may be an important factor for health professionals to consider in managing postnatal distress.”
The Australian study looked at 1,305 women who had just given birth at six public hospitals. Written questionnaires were completed at recruitment and at 3, 6 and 12 months postpartum.
In the new study, researchers discovered that 16 percent of women reported depressive symptoms in the 12 months postpartum, with most women first reporting depressive symptoms in the second 6 months after birth.
Factors associated with postpartum depressive symptoms include: emotional abuse alone, physical abuse, depression in pregnancy and unemployment in early pregnancy.
The study found that one in six women reported intimate partner violence in the year after having their first baby. Emotional violence was more common than physical violence (14% versus 8%).
Physical and emotional abuse in the first year after a child’s birth is associated with a range of physical and psychological health problems. These problems include postpartumdepression and future behavioral problems in the child.
Even after adjusting for other possible explanations — such as prior depression, maternal age, relationship status, and employment status in early pregnancy — the association between partner emotional or physical abuse and depression was significant, noted the researchers. The research couldn’t determine whether depression could have contributed to the greater likelihood of abuse, or whether abuse could have contributed to the greater likelihood of depression.
“This study shows that pregnancy and the postnatal period is a good time to identify and support women who experience both depression and partner violence,” noted Professor Philip Steer, editor of the journal where the study was published in.
The study was published today in the journal, BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.