• postnatal depression;
  • maternal satisfaction;
  • motherhood;
  • Taiwan;
  • United Kingdom

Postnatal depression – biological or cultural? A comparative study of postnatal women in the UK and Taiwan

Aim.  The aim of the study was to compare the factors which are associated with postnatal depression in the UK (United Kingdom) and Taiwan.

Background/Rationale.  A comparative study of postnatal women in the UK and Taiwan was undertaken to investigate postnatal care and the prevalence of postnatal depression.

Design/Methods.  The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was used to determine the prevalence of postnatal depression. A semistructured interview and validated questionnaire were used to collect data on maternal satisfaction with postnatal care and the factors associated with postnatal depression. A one in three random sample of women from two community midwife teams in Sheffield, UK and three public health stations in Keelung, Taiwan took part in the study.

Results/Findings.  Fifty (94% response rate) women from Sheffield and 101 (83% response rate) women from Keelung, who were at low risk for maternal or foetal problems during labour and the postnatal period, agreed to participate. The prevalence of postnatal depression in the British and Taiwanese women was almost equal; 18% in the UK and 19% in Taiwan. In Taiwan, the prevalence of postnatal depression had a negative association with relationship with partner (Spearman correlation=–0·34, P < 0·001) and self-confidence (Spearman correlation=–0·28, P < 0·01, Spearman correlation). In addition Taiwanese women who felt more anxious after birth (10·9 ± 7·9, P < 0·001, t-test) had a higher chance of postnatal depression. In the UK, there was a significant negative association between adaptation to the new role of motherhood and score on the EPDS (Spearman correlation=–0·47, P < 0·001). The overall scores for maternal satisfaction were 28·1 and 24·3 in the UK and Taiwan, respectively (P < 0·001, t-test). British women reported a better quality of care during the postnatal period in terms of emotional support and physical care.

Conclusions.  The findings of this study suggest that further cross cultural investigation could shed light on the relative balance of biological and cultural factors which may be associated with the onset of postnatal depression. As the prevalence of postnatal depression is similar in both cultures despite large differences in culture and postnatal care systems, some support is given to a hypothesis that postnatal depression has at least some biological determinants as well as cultural/social ones.