A Longitudinal Study of Women's Depression Symptom Profiles during and after the Postpartum Phase

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology



An issue of critical importance for psychiatry and women's health is whether postpartum depression (PPD) represents a unique condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders asserts that major depressive disorder (MDD) may present with peripartum onset, without suggesting any other differences between MDD and PPD. The absence of any distinct features calls into question the nosologic validity of PPD as a diagnostic category. The present study investigates whether symptom profiles differ between PPD and depression occurring outside the postpartum phase.


In a prospective, longitudinal study of parturient women (N = 239), we examine the manifestation of depression symptoms. We assess factor structure of symptom profiles, and whether factors are differentially pronounced during and after the postpartum period.


Factors were revealed representing: Worry, Emotional/Circadian/Energetic Dysregulation, Somatic/Cognitive, Appetite, Distress Display, and Anger symptoms. The factor structure was validated at postpartum and after‐postpartum timepoints. Interestingly, the Worry factor, comprising anxiety and guilt, was significantly more pronounced during the postpartum timepoint, and the Emotional/Circadian/Energetic Dysregulation factor, which contained sadness and anhedonia, was significantly less pronounced during the postpartum period.


These results suggest that PPD may be a unique syndrome, necessitating research, diagnosis, and treatment strategies distinct from those for MDD. Results indicate the possibility that Worry is an enhanced feature of PPD compared to depression outside the postpartum period, and the crucial role of sadness/anhedonia in MDD diagnosis may be less applicable to PPD diagnosis.

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