The life change experienced by new mothers postpartum can lead to varying levels of depression. Protective factors such as social support, optimism and minimal stress decrease a mother’s risk for developing postpartum depression. Exercise and continued social support postnatally improve a new mothers self-perceived health. These findings have important implications for healthcare professionals working with expecting mothers because they have the opportunity to screen for these risks. Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals who are trained in developing interventions to promote a successful life transitions and they have the potential to benefit mothers who are struggling to adapt to the role of motherhood.
What role can occupational therapy provide for new mothers struggling to adapt to life change?
First-time mothers experience abrupt and significant life changes postpartum. The transition happens easily for some but many women endure a period of shell shock relating to the physical, mental and emotional responsibilities associated with the role of motherhood. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 12% of women experience moderate depression and 6% feel severely depressed in their first year postpartum (CDC; 2011). Depression interferes with a mother’s ability to bond with her infant and negatively impacts the infant’s behavior (Murray; 1996). A study by Burke (2003) found that husbands become depressed and there is an increase in marital discourse when mothers are depressed. Currently healthcare for mothers post childbirth is focused on the health of their infant. This data has important implications for the role of healthcare professionals working with expecting mothers because preventing postpartum depression and facilitating a smooth transition into motherhood impacts the health of the mother, infant and spouse.
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