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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Central American Immigrant Women: The Role of Familism and Social Support Open Access

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Postpartum depression and anxiety are common conditions with well-documented negative consequences and associated risk factors and, therefore, of significant public health concern. Research has shown that Central American immigrants are adversely affected by their political histories, high rates of undocumented status, and exposure to violence. Central American women may be at an increased risk for developing depression, anxiety, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after giving birth. The differentiation between general anxiety and PTSD is important because Central American women may be at increased risk for PTSD due to their experiences with trauma before, during, and after migration. However, little research has examined the prevalence for postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD, the comorbidity of postpartum depression and anxiety as well as depression and PTSD, consequences, and the risk and protective factors in this population. Using a convenience sample of Central American mothers with infants up to 12 months old (N = 100), this study examined (1) the prevalence of elevated depressive, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms during the postpartum period, and (2) the comorbidity of elevated depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as elevated depressive and PTSD symptoms during the postpartum period. Additionally, the cultural buffer hypothesis was utilized as a framework to examine how social support and familism are associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Results indicate that the prevalence of elevated depressive, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms was 8.0%, 6.0%, and 11.1%, respectively. The prevalence of comorbid elevated depressive and anxiety symptoms was 62.5% and of elevated depressive and PTSD symptoms was 42.9%. The results indicated that symptoms of postpartum depressive symptoms were not associated with social support. Postpartum depressive symptoms were associated with attitudinal familism but not behavioral familism with nuclear and extended family. Correlates of postpartum anxiety symptoms were social support, attitudinal familism, and behavioral familism with nuclear and extended family. Social support and attitudinal familism were associated with postpartum symptoms of PTSD. Behavioral familism with nuclear and extended family were not associated with postpartum symptoms of PTSD. The findings suggest that the cultural buffer hypothesis was partially supported in relation to social support and familism during the postpartum period but longitudinal research is needed to confirm the relationships between these variables. Implications for future research, screening, and interventions are discussed.

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