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Psychiatric morbidity in postpartum Zulu women at King Edward VIII Hospital.

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Psychiatric morbidity in the postpartum period has been a subject of research for years that has been plagued by much controversy. Most of the studies have come from Western countries. Studies that were done in Africa have concentrated on psychotic disorders in in-patients. A pilot study done by Cheetham et al (1981) at King Edward VIII Hospital found a high incidence of 'transient situational disturbances', which required further investigation. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: 1. To document the spectrum of psychiatric morbidity in an out-patient population of postpartum Zulu women; 2. To define predictive factors which would identify women 'at risk'; 3. To assess the feasibility of 'Western' screening instruments; 4. To investigate whether 'postpartum blues' occurs in Zulu women. RESEARCH DESIGN A prospective, descriptive study was undertaken. Sample Selection: 177 postpartum Zulu women attending the ' Well-Baby' Clinic at King Edward VIII Hospital were randomly selected for inclusion in the study. Methodology: Three questionnaires: The General Health Questionnaire- 30, Pitt's Questionnaire of Anxiety and Depression and The Kennerley Blues Questionnaire were administered to the subjects. A Structured Clinical Interview DSM-III (SCID) was conducted in those women with symptoms. FINDINGS: 1. The majority of the sample were between the ages of 20 and 30 years, unmarried, with a Senior Primary education and a baby of 20 weeks. 2. 45.76% of the sample had a psychiatric diagnosis, with 18.07% having major depression. Other disorders included: adjustment disorders, schizophrenia and dysthymia. 3. Significant variables using Chi-square analysis were: inadequate antenatal care, a negative response from the partner and the absence of cultural rituals. No association was found with demographic and obstetric variables. 4. T-test analysis showed a correlation between the questionnaires and the SCID. 5. 37.3% had experienced 'postpartum blues'. CONCLUSIONS: 1. The spectrum of psychiatric morbidity is affective in nature and similar to other studies. 2. 'Postpartum blues' does occur in Zulu women. 3. Antenatal screening with 'Western' instruments could reduce psychiatric morbidity. 4. The nomenclature of puerperal disorders is inadequate and needs review. 5. More prospective, community-based research is needed, especially in rural Zulu women.


Thesis (M.Med.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1992.


Postpartum depression., Postpartum psychiatric disorders., Psychiatric hospital care.., Women, Zulu--Mental health., Theses--Psychiatry.