Postnatal depression in Central Vietnam

Murray, Linda Jennifer (2012) Postnatal depression in Central Vietnam. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Postnatal depression (PND) is a significant global health issue, which not only impacts maternal wellbeing, but also infant development and family structures. Mental health disorders represent approximately 14% of global burden of disease and disability, including low and middle-income countries (LMIC), and PND has direct relevance to the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and creating global partnerships (United Nations, 2012; Guiseppe, Becker & Farmer, 2011). Emerging evidence suggests that PND in LMIC is similar to, or higher than in high-income countries (HIC), however, less than 10% of LMIC have prevalence data available (Fisher, Cabral de Mello, & Izutsu 2009; Lund et al., 2011). Whilst a small number of studies on maternal mental disorders have been published in Vietnam, only one specifically focuses on PND in a hospital-based sample. Also, community based mental health studies and information on mental health in rural areas of Vietnam is still scarce. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of PND, and its associated social determinants in postnatal women in Thua Thien Hue Province, Central Vietnam. In order to identify social determinants relevant to the Central Vietnamese context, two qualitative studies and one community survey were undertaken. Associations between maternal mental health and infant health outcomes were also explored.

The study was comprised of three phases. Firstly, iterative, qualitative interviews with Vietnamese health professionals (n = 17) and postpartum women (n = 15) were conducted and analysed using Kleinman's theory of explanatory models to identify narratives surrounding PND in the Vietnamese context (Kleinman, 1978). Secondly, a participatory concept mapping exercise was undertaken with two groups of health professionals (n = 12) to explore perceived risk and protective factors for postnatal mental health. Qualitative phases of the research elucidated narratives surrounding maternal mental health in the Vietnamese context such as son preference, use of traditional medicines, and the popularity of confinement practices such as having one to three months of complete rest. The qualitative research also revealed the construct of depression was not widely recognised. Rather, postpartum changes in mood were conceptualised as a loss of 'vital strength' following childbirth or 'disappointment'. Most women managed postpartum changes in mood within the family although some sought help from traditional medicine practitioners or biomedical doctors.

Thirdly, a cross-sectional study of twelve randomly selected communes (six urban, six rural) in Thua Thien Hue Province was then conducted. Overall, 465 women with infants between 4 weeks and six months old participated, and 431 questionnaires were analysed. Women from urban (n = 216) and rural (n = 215) areas participated. All eligible women completed a structured interview about their health, basic demographics, and social circumstances. Maternal depression was measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) as a continuous variable. Multivariate generalised linear regression was conducted using PASW Statistics version 18.0 (2009). When using the conventional EPDS threshold for probable depression (EPDS score ~ 13) 18.1% (n = 78) of women were depressed (Gibson, McKenzie-McHarg, Shakespeare, Price & Gray, 2009). Interestingly, 20.4% of urban women (n = 44) had EPDS scores~ 13, which was a higher proportion than rural women, where 15.8% (n = 34) had EPDS scores ~ 13, although this difference was not statistically significant: t(429) = -0.689, p = 0.491. Whilst qualitative narratives identified infant gender and family composition, and traditional confinement practices as relevant to postnatal mood, these were not statistically significant in multivariate analysis. Rather, poverty, food security, being frightened of your husband or family members, experiences of intimate partner violence and breastfeeding difficulties had strong statistical associations. PND was also associated with having an infant with diarrhoea in the past two weeks, but not infant malnutrition or acute respiratory infections.

This study is the first to explore maternal mental health in Central Vietnam, and provides further evidence that PND is a universally experienced phenomenon. The independent social risk factors of depressive symptoms identified such as poverty, food insecurity, experiences of violence and powerlessness, and relationship adversity points to women in a context of social suffering which is relevant throughout the world (Kleinman, Das & Lock, 1997). The culturally specific risk factors explored such as infant gender were not statistically significant when included in a multivariable model. However, they feature prominently in qualitative narratives surrounding PND in Vietnam, both in this study and previous literature. It appears that whilst infant gender may not be associated with PND per se, the reactions of close relatives to the gender of the baby can adversely affect maternal wellbeing.

This study used a community based participatory research approach (CBPR) (Israel.2005). This approach encourages the knowledge produced to be used for public health interventions and workforce training in the community in which the research was conducted, and such work has commenced. These results suggest that packages of interventions for LMIC devised to address maternal mental health and infant wellbeing could be applied in Central Vietnam. Such interventions could include training lay workers to follow up postpartum women, and incorporating mental health screening and referral into primary maternal and child health care (Pate! et al., 2011; Rahman, Malik, Sikander & Roberts, 2008). Addressing the underlying social determinants of PND through poverty reduction and violence elimination programs is also recommended.

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ID Code: 63485
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Dunne, Michael, Khawaja, Nigar, & Thanh, Cao Ngoc
Keywords: community based participatory research, concept mapping, confinement practices, content analysis, cross-sectional survey, gender, infant health, mental health, social capital, postnatal depression, postpartum depression, social support, socio-economic status, son preference, Vietnam
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 18 Oct 2013 00:20
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 04:10

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