Seeking help for anxiety and depression after childbirth: Results of the Maternal Health Study

Hannah Woolhouse, Stephanie Brown, Ann Krastev, Susan Perlen, Jane Gunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

91 Citations (Scopus)


Access to treatment for postnatal anxiety and depression is dependant on women seeking help for psychological symptoms. The aim of this paper was to investigate what women themselves say about seeking help for emotional difficulties after childbirth. The Maternal Health Study is a prospective pregnancy cohort study investigating the physical and psychological health of 1,507 nulliparous women during pregnancy and after birth. One thousand, three hundred eighty-five women completed a computer-assisted telephone interview at 9 months postpartum; 8.5% of women reported intense anxiety or panic attacks occasionally or often, and 9.5% reported depressed mood, between 6 and 9 months postpartum. Of those experiencing anxiety symptoms alone 44.4% had spoken to a health professional, compared with 65.5% of women experiencing depressive symptoms alone (RR∈=∈0.68, 95% CI-0.5 to 0.9). Measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms at 9 months postpartum were not validated against diagnostic criteria. Anxiety is a common experience in the perinatal period. More research is needed into this area to determine what levels of anxiety are 'normal' and acceptable to women during this period. Public health campaigns may have been more effective in encouraging women to seek help for depression than anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Help-seeking
  • Postnatal anxiety
  • Postnatal depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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