Comparing prevalence rates of depressive symptoms in postpartum and nonpostpartum samples in a low-income community

Westwood, Bridget Anne (2006-12)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Within the medical models, postpartum depression is constructed as a mental illness, that women are predisposed to during the postpartum period because of the biological and physiological changes that occur before, during and after childbirth. The present study aimed to determine whether childbirth increases the risk of developing depressive symptomatology in the first six months after delivery. The objective of the study was to examine the concept of postpartum depression by analyzing the difference in depressive symptom rates between 41 postpartum women and 254 male and female (who had not given birth in the previous six months) community members residing in a semi-rural area of South Africa. This objective was reached by using a cross-sectional survey research design. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to elicit the quantitative data. Several independent t-tests were conducted to determine the following (i) whether low-income women three months postpartum had higher BDI scores in comparison to a combined gendered community sample, and (ii) whether low-income women six months postpartum had higher BDI scores in comparison to a combined gendered community sample. The results indicated that the postpartum women did not experience elevated rates of depressive symptoms at three months or at six months in comparison to the community sample. Men in the 2003 community sample displayed significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than the sixmonth postpartum women. These findings do not support the assumption that childbirth predisposes women to psychological vulnerability during the postpartum period.

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