Psychological Violence Predicts Postnatal Depression

Pregnant women with highest frequency of psychological abuse by partner at increased risk
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Intimate-partner psychological violence during pregnancy is strongly associated with the development of postnatal depression, and this relationship is independent of physical or sexual violence, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in The Lancet.

Ana Bernarda Ludermir, Ph.D., of the Cidade Universitária in Recife, Brazil, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of 1,045 pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy who were attending primary health care clinics in Brazil. Interviews were conducted during pregnancy and after delivery; partner violence (psychological, physical, and sexual) in pregnancy was assessed with a validated questionnaire, and the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale was used to measure postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression was present in 25.8 percent of the women. The researchers found that those reporting the highest frequency of psychological violence were more likely to have postnatal depression even after adjustment (adjusted odds ratio, 2.29). Psychological violence was the most frequently reported type of violence during pregnancy. Women who reported physical or sexual violence in pregnancy had higher unadjusted odds of developing postnatal depression (odds ratio, 3.28), but after adjustment for psychological violence and other factors, this association was substantially lower. Psychological violence was independently associated with postnatal depression.

"Prenatal care could provide an opportunity for improved detection by health care professionals, but the precise role of health providers in identification of partner violence against women needs further elucidation," the authors write. "Interventions that might prevent psychological violence, or help to treat the consequences of such violence, should reduce the substantial burden of postnatal depression that affects mothers, children, and the health system as a whole."

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