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Cognitive vulnerability to postnatal depressive symptomatology

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Understanding the factors involved in the development of postpartum depressive disorders has important implications for the detection of women at risk, and the development of theory-driven preventative treatments. In the current study, recent innovations in the assessment of idiographic cognitive functioning among adult, non-pregnant samples were administered to a sample of healthy primiparous women to investigate their predictive utility in the onset of low mood following childbirth. Cognitive biases using autobiographical material, and the degree of self-devaluation during brief episodes of naturally occurring low mood were assessed in 94 concurrently well women in the third trimester of their first pregnancy. The degree of depressive symptomatology at 2 and 8 weeks postpartum was assessed subsequently. Antenatal self-devaluative tendencies and a lack of specificity in autobiographical retrieval were not associated with low mood in the initial weeks following delivery, when biological factors are believed to play an important role, but did predict depressive symptoms more distally at 8 weeks after childbirth. This relationship was demonstrated after controlling for educational level, variations in antenatal dysphoria, previous emotional difficulties, neuroticism and the woman's own experience of mothering. The theoretical and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pennsylvania USA 2: School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice University of East Anglia Norwich UK 3: Severn NHS Trust Park House Resource Centre Park Road Stroud UK

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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