"Our results, and those of other scientists, suggest that low or absent support is a significant risk factor for postpartum depression, and that strong support is a protective factor," Hahn-Holbrook said.
Previous research has found that levels of pCRH typically increase during the third trimester of pregnancy. Women who exhibit the most dramatic increases in pCRH seem to show the most severe postpartum depression. Research has also shown that social support can dampen biological stress responses in women who are not pregnant. In the new study, Hahn-Holbrook and colleagues integrated these two strands of research, examining the interplay between a psychological factor, social support, and a biological factor, pCRH, in predicting postpartum depression.
"We investigated perceived support the extent to which a mother felt she could count on her family and the baby's father should she need them," said Chris Dunkel Schetter, UCLA professor of psychology and co-author of the study. Social support, she added, entails many things, including help with "tasks or material assistance," but also emotional support in the form of acceptance, listening and making someone feel cared for and valued.
"Emotional support seems to be the most powerful form of support that you can provide to someone, but it is difficult to do right," Dunkel Schetter said.
While pregnant women who felt strong support from their families and from the child's father had fewer depressive symptoms, there was no relationship between support from the father and levels of pCRH. Although father support was not as strong of a protective factor as family support in this study, "there is no doubt that fathers are a critical part of a healthy pregnancy," Hahn-Holbrook said. It could be that support from the father influences pCRH levels earlier in pregnancy, or father support may act by a different biolog
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