Latinas and Postpartum Depression: Role of Partner Relationship, Additional Children, and Breastfeeding

Article excerpt

Silva Hassert and Sharon E. Robinson Kurpius Breastfeeding, additional children, and partner relationship predicted postpartum depression among 59 Latinas who had an infant who was 6 months old or younger. The most powerful predictor was conflict with partner. Counselors working with Latinas experiencing postpartum depression should explore the partner relationship, particularly relationship conflict.

El amamantamiento, los otros hijos, y la relacion de pareja pronosticaron la depresion postparto en 59 mujeres latinas que tertian un hijo de 6 meses de edad o menos. El factor de pronostico mas fuerte fue el conflicto con su pareja. Los consejeros que trabajen con mujeres latinas con depresion postparto deberian explorar la relacion de pareja, sobre todo los conflictos en la relacion.


Although the time surrounding pregnancy is generally believed to be one of the happiest in a woman's life, it has been estimated that between 13% and 16% of new mothers living in the United States (Robertson, Grace, Wallington, & Stewart, 2004) are affected by postpartum depression (PPD). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rex,.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000), PPD onset occurs within 4 weeks of delivery, symptoms are present for at least 1 week, and the depression results in impaired functioning. Symptoms include mood fluctuations, emotional lability, insomnia, confusion, feelings of guilt and anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Dennis & Ross, 2006).

impact of ppd on mother and family

Mothers suffering from PPD may be overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, irrational thinking, loss, or anger and be less confident about their maternal identity and less responsive to their infants' needs (Beck, 1996; Murray, Fiori-Cowley, Hooper, & Cooper, 1996). Mother-infant interactions mediate the relationship between depressive symptoms and adverse developmental outcomes in the infant. Murray et al. (1996) found that disturbed interactions were predictive of poorer cognitive outcomes in infants at 18 months postpartum. Moehler, Brunner, Wiebel, Reck, and Resch (2006) also found that maternal depressive symptoms at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 4 months postpartum were strongly associated with lower maternal-infant bonding from 2 weeks to 14 months. A meta-analysis of PPD studies revealed that PPD had a negative effect on the emotional and cognitive development of children between the ages of 1 and 14 years (Beck, 1998). PPD has also been related to (a) the mother's relationship with her partner/spouse; (b) whether there are other young children in the home; and (c) whether the mother breastfeeds the infant, all variables that are examined in the current study.

Stress in a couple's relationship may coincide with the birth of a baby, because childbirth requires significant adjustments. Zelkowitz and Milet (1996) found that spouses of women who were diagnosed with postpartum psychiatric disorders reported greater dissatisfaction with their marriages and more changes in household routines, recreation, and intimacy with their partners. Among 80 couples at 3-6 months postpartum, Bielawska-Batorowicz and Kossakowska-Petrycka (2006) found that husbands' depressed mood was directly related to their wives' depression and to marital satisfaction.

A supportive partner can have a positive effect on maternal outcomes after birth (Dehle, Larsen, & Landers, 2001; Hock, Schirtzinger, Lutz, & Widaman, 1995; Hollist, Miller, Falceto, & Fernandes, 2007). In a study of 330 Canadian women at 8 weeks postpartum, Dennis and Ross (2006) found that women with depressive symptoms reported lower relationship-specific support and postpartum-specific support and higher conflict than did women with no depressive symptoms. Gross, Wells, Radigan-Garcia, and Dietz (2002) reported that when the partner relationship was stressful, new mothers were twice as likely to be depressed than were new mothers without similar stress. …