• postpartum stress;
  • social support;
  • health status;
  • maternity role;
  • body changes;
  • family;
  • women’s health;
  • postpartum period;
  • longitudinal study;
  • Eastern culture

The effects of postpartum stress and social support on postpartum women’s health status

Background. Eastern sociocultural systems differ in many ways from Western ones, and these differences influence many aspects of the postpartum period.

Aim. The purpose of this study was to determine postpartum women’s health status in the wider social context of the Taiwanese family after women return home from the hospital or clinic.

Method. A longitudinal study was conducted with data collected at the first, the third, and the fifth weeks of the postpartum period. Five hundred and twenty-six postpartum women were included in the study using stratified sampling from clinics and hospitals in Kaohsiung City in the southern part of Taiwan. The Hung Postpartum Stress Scale (HPSS), Smilkstein’s Social Support Scale, and the Chinese Health Questionnaire were used to obtain information about the women’s postpartum stress, social support, and health status at each time point. Data were analysed with factor analysis, repeated measures MANOVA, and multiple logistic regression.

Results. Three factors associated with postpartum stress were identified by factor analysis: (1) maternity role attainment, (2) lack of social support, and (3) body changes. Furthermore, the level of postpartum stress at the third and the fifth postnatal weeks was higher than at the first. Social support scores at this postnatal week were the highest among the three points in time. In addition, 29%, 41% and 41% of the women at the first, third, and fifth weeks, respectively, had minor psychiatric morbidity.

Conclusions. Because the postpartum women’s self-reported stress is relatively low whereas the social support is relatively high, especially from the family, this confirms Pillsbury’s conclusion regarding the significance of social support during the Chinese women’s postpartum period. The study also showed that the three factors associated with postpartum stress were important predictors of postpartum women’s health status. Future studies should compare the level of postpartum stress, social support, and women’s health status in both Western and Eastern cultures.