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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The association of postpartum-specific anxiety and mother-infant bonding : a cross-sectional study Folkes, Ianna


Background: Anxiety, feelings of persistent and excessive worry about numerous events or activities, is common during the first year postpartum. Postpartum-specific anxiety is considered a distinct concept from general anxiety, wherein the mother’s anxiety is maternal- and infant-focused. The mother-infant bond is defined as the physical and emotional connection developed from mother to infant in the first years of life. Poor bonding is associated with adverse health and psychological outcomes for mother and child. Most research on this topic has focused on associations between mother-infant bonding, general anxiety, and postpartum depression. Evidence on the role of postpartum-specific anxiety is scarce. Objectives: The aim of this research was to assess associations between general and postpartum-specific anxiety and mother-infant bonding, and to determine if there is variance in mother-infant bonding quality that can be uniquely explained by postpartum-specific anxiety. Methods: A cross-sectional study using data from the Pregnancy Specific Anxiety Scale study was conducted. Mothers of singleton infants were followed from pregnancy through 4 months postpartum. Mother-infant bonding quality was measured using the Mother-to-Infant Bonding Scale (MIBS) (primary outcome). A modified version of the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire (PBQ) was used to measure bonding disorders (secondary outcome) at 4 months postpartum. General anxiety and postpartum-specific anxiety were measured using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), and Postpartum Worry Scale-Revised (PWS-R), respectively. To examine associations between general and postpartum-specific anxiety and mother-infant bonding, multiple linear regression models were constructed while accounting for confounders. Results: The study sample included 297 postpartum participants. General anxiety was not a significant predictor of mother-infant bonding quality or disorder, after controlling for postpartum depression and other confounders. No significant associations were found between postpartum-specific anxiety and bonding quality (as measured by the MIBS). Postpartum-specific anxiety was significantly associated with bonding disorders as measured by the PBQ (p=0.006). Postpartum depression remained a significant predictor of mother-infant bonding quality and disorders in all multivariate models. Conclusion: Findings showed a small, but unique contribution of postpartum-specific anxiety to disordered mother-infant bonding. Results also confirmed the significant influence of postpartum depression on the mother-infant bond, which has been well established in previous literature.

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