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Exploring postnatal depression, sexual dysfunction and relationship dissatisfaction in Australian women

02 March 2017
18 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 3

Abstract

Background

Postnatal depression symptoms are the most common mental health problem following childbirth.

Aims

This study aimed to investigate the association between sexual dysfunction, relationship dissatisfaction and symptoms of postnatal depression among Australian women during the first year after giving birth.

Methods

Australian women who had given birth during the past 12 months were invited to participate in a cross-sectional online study. A multi-section questionnaire was designed to collected data.

Findings

Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) reported symptoms of postnatal depression. The symptoms of postnatal depression were significantly associated with low educational level, exclusive breastfeeding, clinically diagnosed depression, sexual dysfunction, not being the initiator of sex during partnered sexual activity, and relationship dissatisfaction. The risk of depression symptoms was 2.2 times greater in women who had a low level of education, 2.5 times greater in women with sexual dysfunction and 3.7 times greater in women with relationship dissatisfaction.

Conclusions

Symptoms of depression are prevalent among postnatal women during the first year after childbirth and are significantly associated with sexual dysfunction and relationship dissatisfaction.

Symptoms of postnatal depression are the main mental health problem following childbirth and are characterised by serious mood changes, sadness, hopelessness, feeling of worthlessness, fatigue, insomnia, suicidal thoughts and other psychological symptoms. The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) has identified symptoms of postnatal depression as the fourth most common health issue that requires rapid and careful attention during the first year after childbirth (Kanotra et al, 2007). A range of 5.6–29.2% of women are reported to experience symptoms of depression during the early postnatal period (Buist and Bilszta, 2006; Buist et al, 2008; Austin et al, 2010; Xie et al, 2011) and almost one third reportedly experience symptoms of postnatal depression at 5 months and 9 months postpartum (Gress-Smith et al, 2012).

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