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Infant Ment Health J. 2019 Sep 5. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21827. [Epub ahead of print]

Maternal perinatal mental health: Associations with bonding, mindfulness, and self-criticism at 18 months' postpartum.

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School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.


The perinatal period is a time of significant transition for women, with changes in maternal mental health from pregnancy to 18 months' postpartum. This study specifically analyzes maternal self-criticism and mindfulness during pregnancy and at 18 months' postpartum, and their associations with bonding. A longitudinal study (30 weeks' gestation-18 months' postpartum) assessed 32 mother-infant dyads, examining changes in maternal depression, anxiety, self-criticism, and mindfulness. In addition, associations between maternal variables during pregnancy and bonding were investigated. Maternal depression and self-criticism significantly increased from pregnancy to postpartum. Maternal anxiety, self-criticism, and facets of mindfulness during pregnancy were also associated with mother-infant bonding at 18 months. Maternal mental health during pregnancy is subject to change postchildbirth. The lack of control and autonomy accompanying motherhood may result in an increase in self-criticism during this period. Such feelings may elevate a woman's vulnerability to postpartum depression and have consequences for later maternal bonding. Early identification of at-risk mothers is important to increase likelihood of positive outcomes.


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