Postnatal Depression in New Zealand: Findings from the 2015 New Mothers’ Mental Health Survey

The purpose of this report is to add to current knowledge around postnatal depression (PND) in New Zealand by providing an indication of PND prevalence as well as an overview of the social and life experiences, as well as help-seeking knowledge and attitudes, of women who might be experiencing PND. To this end, the current report uses data from the New Mothers’ Mental Health Survey (NMMHS), a cross-sectional survey conducted between July and September 2015. 

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Commissioning agencies
Date of last publication
May 2016

Purpose

Postnatal depression encompasses symptoms of physical, emotional and psychological upheaval experienced by women during the postpartum period. For many parents, the arrival of a baby may be a time filled with both positive emotions and significant stressors due to the physical and emotional demands of caring for a newborn. However, some women also experience significant distress or disability due to symptoms of depression and anxiety experienced during this time. For some, these symptoms may continue for up to a year or more postpartum (Bewley, 1999; Goodman, 2004; Leahy-Warren & McCarthy, 2007).

There has been limited research into PND in a New Zealand context, but the few studies on PND in New Zealand report prevalence rates typically ranging from 11 to 16% (Abbott & Williams, 2006; Ekeroma et al., 2012; Thio et al., 2006). The purpose of this report is to add to current knowledge around PND in New Zealand by using data from the 2015 New Mothers’ Mental Health Survey (NMMHS). This report provides an indication of PND prevalence as well as an overview of the social and life experiences, and help-seeking knowledge and attitudes, of women who might be experiencing PND.

Methodology

The NMMHS was conducted online, with 805 women who had given birth during the previous two years. Respondents were recruited via the Bounty New Zealand database.

Questionnaire

Respondents completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS; Cox, Holden, & Sagovsky, 1987) to assess PND (referred to here as EPDS-PND), and provided information on their socio-demographic characteristics. Respondents also completed measures to assess anxiety and psychological distress, and were asked questions to assess their social and life experiences, as well as their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around help-seeking.

Data analysis

Proportions were calculated first to estimate the prevalence of EPDS-PND in New Zealand. Logistic regression analyses were then used to assess whether EPDS-PND prevalence varied by socio-demographic factors, and whether social experiences and help-seeking behaviours differed for those who met the criteria for EPDS-PND compared with those who did not.

Key Results

PND prevalence

Overall, 14% of respondents met the criteria for EPDS-PND. After adjusting for covariates, people who identified as Asian and those who had a low household income (under $40,000) were more likely to meet the criteria for EPNDS-PND.

Social factors and connectedness

Respondents who met the criteria for EPDS-PND were more likely to give responses that indicated greater life difficulties, lower coping self-efficacy, lower social connectedness, more isolation, lower family/whānau wellbeing, and lower life satisfaction.

Help-seeking

The majority of respondents believed they could identify depression in themselves or in a friend, regardless of whether or not they themselves met the criteria for EPDS-PND.

Those with EPDS-PND and those without had similar knowledge about the places they could go to seek help if they thought they might be experiencing depression. The main potential source of help listed by respondents (regardless of their EPDS-PND status) was their doctor or general practitioner.

However, when asked where they would be most likely go for help if they thought they might be experiencing depression, respondents who met the criteria for EPDS-PND were more likely to say they did not know where they would go, and more likely to say they would not seek help.

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