Lack of preparation, physical health after childbirth, and early postpartum depressive symptoms

Elizabeth A. Howell, Pablo A. Mora, Mark R. Chassin, Howard Leventhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Prior research has not examined the association of patient expectations or preparation by providers for the postpartum experience with depressive symptoms. We investigated whether lack of preparation for the postpartum experience and physical health after uncomplicated childbirth were associated with early postpartum depressive symptoms. Methods: We conducted a telephone survey of 720 early postpartum mothers in New York City. Mothers reported on depressive symptoms, physical symptoms, provider preparation for the postpartum experience, and other factors. Results: Nearly 39% of patients reported depressive symptoms; 24% did not feel adequately prepared by their provider for the postpartum experience. Mothers reported a range of physical symptoms: 98% reported daily vaginal bleeding, 79% reported cesarean section or episiotomy site pain, 82% reported breast pain, and 32% reported urinary incontinence. Patients who reported inadequate preparation by their provider were more likely to report depressive symptoms compared with patients who reported adequate preparation (53% vs. 35%, p<0.001). In a multivariable model predicting postpartum depressive symptoms, adjusted odds ratios (ORs) remained elevated for perceived lack of preparation for the postpartum experience, more physical symptoms, and more physical functional limitations. Conclusions: Further research is needed to investigate whether preparing patients for expected health consequences after pregnancy may reduce the incidence of early postpartum depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-708
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2010


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