Psychological factors influencing women's postpartum mental health

Stansfield, Cat and Sellwood, Bill and Jones, Steven (2019) Psychological factors influencing women's postpartum mental health. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis focuses on women’s mental health following childbirth. It contains two separate papers: a systematic literature review and an empirical paper. Section one, the paper titled “Psychosocial Factors and Severe Postpartum Mental Health Difficulties: A Systematic Literature Review” aimed to establish the psychosocial factors which may influence whether a woman experiences severe postpartum mental health difficulties. The paper synthesised fourteen quantitative studies. The articles used a variety of methods, included small sample sizes, and focused predominantly on demographic factors. With the exception of previous mental health difficulties, the results were conflicting and contradictory; therefore, no overall conclusion could be made as to which of these factors increased a woman’s risk of these experiences. The findings demonstrated that no psychosocial factors have been researched in relation to severe postpartum mental health difficulties. Future research is required to establish the interaction between various psychosocial factors in order to develop our understanding of how these factors make some women more vulnerable to these experiences than others. Section two, the empirical paper titled, “Factors Predicting the Occurrence of SubClinical Symptoms of Mania in New Mothers”, aimed to explore the relationship between postpartum (hypo)mania and psychological factors including: cognitive appraisal styles, rumination strategies, Behavioural Activation System (BAS) sensitivity, sleep deprivation and birth experience. Younger age, lower income, feeding method, greater normalising appraisal styles, hypomania-relevant experiences, dampening and emotion-focused rumination strategies were associated with higher levels of (hypo)mania. However, whether these factors significantly predicted higher scores was dependent on whether the Highs scale (Glover et al, 1994) or the Altman Self-Rating Mania Scale (Altman et al, 1994) was used to measure (hypo)mania. The paper concluded that the experience of (hypo)mania in the post-partum is likely to be the result of several, complex and interacting demographic and psychosocial factors. Future research is required to establish validated measures of (hypo)mania for the postpartum population.

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Thesis (PhD)
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18 Mar 2019 11:15
Last Modified:
10 Mar 2024 00:02