Thursday, 18 December 2014

Critical partner relationships at higher risk of PND

Research published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health by Monash SPHPM’s Karen Wynter, Dr Heather Rowe and Professor Jane Fisher has found that the quality of intimate partner relationships are significantly associated with the risk of postnatal depression.

The 161 couple study aimed to investigate interactions between perceptions of quality of intimate partner relationship and postnatal depressive symptoms in members of heterosexual couples, six months after the birth of their first child.

Postnatal depression (PND) is defined as the onset of severe or prolonged depression after childbirth that interferes with the woman's ability to manage a regular lifestyle, including taking care of her infant. Postnatal depression is a significant public health issue within Australia, with severe symptoms affecting 7.5% of women and between 2-5% of men within Australia.

The study discussed previous research being conducted within the field to identify various risk factors that can lead to the development of postnatal depression. More specifically, it highlighted the risks of a controlling and coercive partner, creating a greater chance of a woman developing depressive symptoms. In stark contrast, Wynter, Rowe and Fisher emphasized that a supportive and caring partner can have a positive influence, acting as a protection against depression in the postnatal period. The article illuminated the need to bridge the gap where research had commonly focused on either women or men; failing to address the risk and protective factors of those in a shared relationship.

The research found that when other relevant factors were controlled, relationships in which partners were perceived as critical, coercive or intimidating were associated with much higher rates of depressive symptoms in both mothers and their partners. It found that further to this influence, vulnerable personality traits, adverse life events and more frequent infant crying and fussing also contributed to higher rates of depressive symptoms. The discussion explored the need to view postnatal depression as a complex, interrelated result of partner interactions, and not simply of the individual person.

It recommends that the findings show relevant information for clinical services treating women or men diagnosed with PND, where a focus on strategies to reduce the mentioned criticism, coercion and intimidation may prove effective in improving the mental health of both women and men. It also advocates for health care services to seek ways to include partners in postnatal health care after the birth of a first baby, rather than simply before birth.

The study concludes that in order to improve rates of postnatal depression in both men and women after the birth of their first child, it is important for health care workers to assess the psychological functioning of both parents after birth, and to recommend a brief psycho-educational program for both members of a couple where seen appropriate.

Read the full article here.

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