Aims and objective. To study the impact of postnatal depression on the quality of life of young French mothers and to evaluate if the gender of their child influences this.
Background. Postnatal depression (PND) constitutes a major public health problem considering its high prevalence and consequences upon quality of life and parental skills.
Design. This research is a cross-sectional study during the postnatal period.
Methods. This study was carried out during a two-month period. Data were collected by interview and questionnaires. The authors compared the prevalence rate of PND and life quality in a cohort of 181 women and measured the short-term impact of the child's birth.
Results. Postnatal depression strongly negatively influences all dimensions of life quality explored through the SF36, e.g. physical functioning (PF), physical Role (RP), bodily pain (BP), mental health (MH), emotional role (RE), social functioning (SF), vitality (VT), general health (GH), standardized physical component (PCS) and standardized mental component (MCS). The baby's gender (having a boy) also significantly reduces quality of life, irrespective of depressive state. There is a relationship between baby gender and PND.
Conclusion. This research is the first to show that the birth of a boy reduces several dimensions of the mothers’ quality of life.
Relevance to clinical practice. The importance of the impairment of quality of life in case of PND, as well as its effects on mother-child interaction, could justify prevention programs and early psychotherapeutic care. Further research needs to explore the effectiveness of programmes targeting the construction of parenting skills as a preventative measure against PND, especially for parents of boys.