Postpartum depressive symptoms and the combined load of paid and unpaid work: A longitudinal analysis

Rada K. Dagher, Patricia M. McGovern, Bryan E. Dowd, Ulf Lundberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose To investigate the effects of total workload and other work-related factors on postpartum depression in the first 6 months after childbirth, utilizing a hybrid model of health and workforce participation. Methods We utilized data from the Maternal Postpartum Health Study collected in 2001 from a prospective cohort of 817 employed women who delivered in three community hospitals in Minnesota. Interviewers collected data at enrollment and 5 weeks, 11 weeks, and 6 months after childbirth. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale measured postpartum depression. Independent variables included total workload (paid and unpaid work), job flexibility, supervisor and coworker support, available social support, job satisfaction, infant sleep problems, infant irritable temperament, and breastfeeding. Results Total average daily workload increased from 14.4 h (6.8 h of paid work; 7.1% working at 5 weeks postpartum) to 15.0 h (7.9 h of paid work; 87% working at 6 months postpartum) over the 6 months. Fixed effects regression analyses showed worse depression scores were associated with higher total workload, lower job flexibility, lower social support, an infant with sleep problems, and breastfeeding. Conclusions Working mothers of reproductive years may find the study results valuable as they consider merging their work and parenting roles after childbirth. Future studies should examine the specific mechanisms through which total workload affects postpartum depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-743
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by grant # 5 R18 OH003605-05 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.


  • Maternal health
  • Occupational health
  • Postpartum depression
  • Total workload

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