Abuse jeopardizes new mothers' mental health

April 28, 2014
Ashley Pritchard, an SFU doctoral student in psychology, has helped discover the extent to which women who experience intimate partner abuse during pregnancy wind up with postpartum mental health problems.

(Medical Xpress)—Ashley Pritchard, a Simon Fraser University doctoral student, is among four authors of a new research paper calling for closer monitoring of new mothers for mental health problems in light of their findings.

The four have advanced previous research that links abuse to postpartum . They discovered that 61 per cent of all women who participated in the study experienced symptoms.

The open-access journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth has published online the researchers' study, Intimate partner abuse before and during pregnancy as risk factors for postpartum mental .

The 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 three months of their .

Even though the abuse was typically minor in nature, 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. Forty-seven per cent of all women who participated in the study experienced at least moderate mental health symptoms.

The participants were largely from high socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems.

"I think when people hear the word abuse they automatically think about physical abuse," says Pritchard, an SFU psychology student who interviewed the study's participants and helped recruit them.

"This research shows that different types of abuse have negative consequences and should be part of routine health checks for new mothers."

In addition to questions about their general health and wellbeing, participants answered questions 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 (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), were above normal levels and were triggered by specific types of abuse.

For example, psychological abuse—verbal and emotional—was associated with stress and PTSD. Physical abuse was associated with depression, OCD and PTSD. Sexual abuse was associated with OCD.

Multivariate modeling also showed that as the number of types of intimate partner abuse experienced increased—especially during pregnancy—so did the number of different types of postpartum mental health problems, and their severity.

The authors say their findings underscore the complex risks and needs associated with intimate partner abuse among postpartum women, regardless of socioeconomic background.

Recognizing that it would be challenging to achieve, the authors recommend that healthcare providers screen more intensely for intimate partner abuse.

"Educating both the public and about the prevalence and effects of intimate partner abuse would help to diminish the stigma surrounding the issue," says Pritchard.

"In addition to education, the development of strong rapport and trust between mothers-to-be and their healthcare providers would likely make it easier to discuss topics such as partner abuse openly."

The authors advocate that further studies investigate intervention and prevention strategies.

Explore further: Study links domestic abuse to mental health problems in new mothers

More information: The complete study is available online: www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2393/14/132/abstract

Related Stories

Study links domestic abuse to mental health problems in new mothers

April 14, 2014
A new study shows that domestic abuse is closely linked to postpartum mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in mothers. The research also found that specific types of abuse ...

Almost one-third of Canadian adults have experienced child abuse

April 22, 2014
Almost one-third of adults in Canada have experienced child abuse—physical abuse, sexual abuse or exposure to intimate partner (parents, step-parents or guardians) violence in their home. As well, child abuse is linked ...

Women with mental health disability may face four-fold risk of abusive relationship

January 30, 2014
Women with a severe mental health-related disability are nearly four times more likely to have been a victim of intimate partner violence than those without a disability, according to a new study by Women's College Hospital ...

Exploring sexual orientation and intimate partner violence

March 4, 2014
Two studies at Sam Houston State University examined issues of sexual orientation and intimate partner violence, including its impact on substance abuse and physical and mental health as well as the effects of child abuse ...

Depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence in the 12 months after childbirth

December 7, 2011
Forty percent of women who report depressive symptoms following birth also reported intimate partner violence finds a new study published today (7 December) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Survivors of intimate partner violence not getting adequate mental health services

June 10, 2013
Although many abused women suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or depression, they are not receiving needed mental health services, a University of Missouri researcher found.

Recommended for you

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Psychopaths are better at learning to lie, say researchers

July 25, 2017
Individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits are better at learning to lie than individuals who show few psychopathic traits, according to a study published in the open access journal Translational Psychiatry. The ...

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.