Abuse jeopardizes new mothers’ mental health

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 5, June 2014, Page 237 News

Intimate partner abuse is linked to postpartum mental health problems in a recent research article, “Intimate partner abuse before and during pregnancy as risk factors for postpartum mental health problems,” published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, available online at www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2393/14/132/abstract. A study examined associations of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse experienced by 100 English-speaking mothers in British Columbia, aged 18 years and older, in the first 3 months of their postpartum period. Though the abuse was typically minor, such as name-calling, any type of intimate partner abuse—before or during pregnancy—was linked to higher than normal levels of postpartum mental health problems. In addition to questions about their general health and well-being, the study asked participants about their experiences of intimate partner abuse and about their mental health during their postpartum period. Their symptoms, which included depression, stress, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder, were above normal levels and were triggered by specific types of abuse. Of the women who participated in the study, 61% experienced mental health symptoms (47% experienced at least moderate mental health symptoms). Study participants were largely from high socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems, underscoring the complex risks and needs associated with intimate partner abuse among postpartum women regardless of socioeconomic background. Authors of the study recommend health care providers screen new mothers more intensely for intimate partner abuse.

Ashley Pritchard, doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, and Patricia Janssen, professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, are two of the study’s four authors.

. Abuse jeopardizes new mothers’ mental health. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 5, June, 2014, Page(s) 237 - News.

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