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J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1997 Sep;18(3):213-9.

Evolution of postpartum mental health.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland.


We investigated the postpartum mental health of 139 mothers, 4-8 weeks after delivery and 2 years later. The sample consisted of mothers who attended a maternity center for a routine health check-up 1-2 months after delivery. The occurrence of mental disorders was assessed using a 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). The occurrence of mental disorders (> 2 on the GHQ) was 28.1% in the initial check-up and 19.4% 2 years later. Mental health improved in 27 mothers (19%) but remained impaired (i.e. cases) in 12 (9%). Mental health was normal in 85 mothers (61%) during both examinations. Factors predicting chronicity of mental disorder on univariate analysis were poor financial situation, poor social support, problems with a partner and life events perceived as stressful during follow-up. Those with continuing mental-health problems had more psychiatric problems than the others before pregnancy. Most (92%) of these subjects had not become pregnant again. Using a logistic-regression analysis, independent factors predicting chronicity of mental-health problems were the high Zung score (Odds Ratio (OR) 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.16-1.65) and a deterioration in relationship with a partner during pregnancy (OR 29, 95% CI 1.83-460). On the other hand, a low Zung score (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.14-1.44) after delivery predicted recovery from mental disorder. A postpartum mental disorder usually resolves spontaneously. However, mental symptoms sometimes persist. The postpartum mental-health of mothers should be assessed, and treatment provided, if necessary.

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