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Study links domestic abuse to mental health problems in new mothers
Date:4/14/2014

A new study shows that domestic abuse is closely linked to postpartum mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in mothers. The research also found that specific types of abuse are associated with specific mental health problems. The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

"We wanted to see whether and how intimate partner abuse physical, psychological and sexual influenced postpartum mental health in women, including problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and PTSD," says Dr. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.

The researchers interviewed 100 women from British Columbia who were largely from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems. The study participants were recruited to participate in a broad health and wellness study, which was not specifically focused on domestic abuse.

Sixty-one percent of the study participants reported symptoms of postpartum mental health problems within the first three months after childbirth. And 47 percent of the 100 women reported symptoms at "clinical" levels, meaning the symptoms were of at least moderate severity.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported experiencing physical, psychological or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner prior to becoming pregnant. Seventy percent of the 100 participants reported some form of abuse by their romantic partner during pregnancy. These forms of abuse ranged from name-calling to rape and physical assault with a weapon.

"We found that women who had experienced abuse were more likely to suffer from postpartum mental health problems, and were much more likely to suffer from those problems if the abuse occurred during pregnancy," De
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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