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Higher psychoticism as a predictor of thoughts of harming one's infant in postpartum women: A prospective study

J.A. Gutiérrez-Zotes, A. Farnós, E. Vilella & J. Labad
Comprehensive Psychiatry
Available online 11 June 2013
 

Abstract
Background
Some women experience thoughts of harming their infants during the early postpartum period. These intrusive thoughts are conceptually similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. The aim of our study was to assess whether personality characteristics may predict a mother's development of postpartum thoughts of harming her infant.

Methods
We studied 137 women with no psychiatric history. They were assessed at two different times during the postpartum period (2–3 days after giving birth and during the 8th week following delivery). We assessed postpartum thoughts of harming one's infant with a semi-structured interview conducted in person. Personality characteristics were assessed with the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. Depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and with a structured interview (Diagnostic Interview for Genetic Studies). We also assessed socio-demographic variables, obstetric variables and stressful life events. Adjusting for age, depression and stressful life events, logistic regression was conducted to explore the relationship between a woman's personality characteristics and postpartum thoughts of harming her infant.

Results
Women with postpartum thoughts of harming their infants scored higher in EPQ-Psychoticism (P = 0.003) but not in neuroticism or extraversion. EPQ-Psychoticism was significantly associated with the presence of postpartum intrusive thoughts (OR = 1.67, p = 0.003) after adjusting for other personality dimensions, age, depression and life stress. Those women scoring 5 or higher in EPQ-Psychoticism were 5.5 times more likely to report postpartum intrusive thoughts (p = 0.004).

Conclusions
In healthy women without psychiatric history, psychoticism is a predictor of postpartum thoughts of harming their infants.

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