Women with high-risk pregnancies because of chronic conditions are at increased risk for developing postpartum depression, and HIV may be one such risk. However, risk factors for women living with HIV, particularly Black women, have not been well studied, wrote Emmanuela Nneamaka Ojukwu of the University of Miami School of Nursing, and colleagues.
Data suggest that as many as half of cases of postpartum depression (PPD) begin before delivery, the researchers noted. “Therefore, for this study, the symptoms of both PND (prenatal depression) and PPD have been classified in what we have termed peripartum depressive symptoms (PDS),” and defined as depressive symptoms during pregnancy and within 1 year postpartum, they said.
In a study published in the, the researchers conducted a secondary analysis of 143 Black women living with HIV seen at specialty prenatal and women’s health clinics in Miami.
Overall, 81 women (57%) reported either perinatal or postpartum depressive symptoms, or both. “Some of the symptoms prevalent among women in our study included restlessness, depressed mood, apathy, guilt, hopelessness, and social isolation,” the researchers said.
Social factors show significant impact
In a multivariate analysis, low income, intimate partner violence, and childcare burden were significant predictors of PDS (P less than .05). Women who reported intimate partner violence or abuse were 6.5 times more likely to experience PDS than were women who did not report abuse, and women with a childcare burden involving two children were 4.6 times more likely to experience PDS than were women with no childcare burden or only one child needing child care.
The average age of the women studied was 29 years, and 59% were above the federal poverty level. Nearly two-thirds (62%) were Black and 38% were Haitian; 63% were unemployed, 62% had a high school diploma or less, and 59% received care through Medicaid.
The researchers assessed four categories of health: HIV-related, gynecologic, obstetric, and psychosocial. The average viral load among the patients was 22,359 copies/mL at baseline, and they averaged 2.5 medical comorbidities. The most common comorbid conditions were other sexually transmitted infections and blood disorders, followed by cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.
Quantitative studies needed
Larger quantitative studies of Black pregnant women living with HIV are needed to analyze social factors at multiple levels, the researchers said. “To address depression among Black women living with HIV, local and federal governments should enact measures that increase the family income and diminish the prevalence of [intimate partner violence] among these women,” they said.
The study findings were limited by several factors including retrospective design and use of self-reports, as well as the small sample size and lack of generalizability to women living with HIV of other races or from other regions, the researchers noted. However, the results reflect data from previous studies and support the value of early screening and referral to improve well being for Black women living with HIV, as well as the importance of comprehensive medical care, they said.
“Women should be counseled that postpartum physical and psychological changes (and the stresses and demands of caring for a new baby) may make [antiretroviral] adherence more difficult and that additional support may be needed during this period,” the researchers wrote.
The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.