Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Health Sciences

Committee Chair

Tishra Beeson

Second Committee Member

Amy Claridge

Third Committee Member

Amie Wojtyna


Postpartum depression impacts 1 in 7 women across the U.S. As a whole population, between 10-16% of women are impacted by maternal depression during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. Those who experience postpartum depression are at risk for repeated depressive episodes and a lower quality of life over time. The postnatal period may reflect the most vulnerable time for mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Fear, judgment, and perceived criticism are commonly named as barriers that delay the mobilization of support.

There is a prevailing perception that postpartum depression is a normal part of motherhood which may limit women’s ability to seek and receive necessary care. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the day-to-day lives of pregnant women who are considered a high-risk group for poor clinical outcomes for COVID-19 infection. Loss of income, employment, and benefits due to pandemic restrictions are potential additional stressors that pregnant and postpartum women are burdened with navigating, which may increase risk of developing PPD.

The influence of social support, social networks, and social integrations has been measured in a variety of ways. The terms are often used interchangeably to refer to the same concept: utilizing relationships to positively influence mental and physical health. The Stress Buffering Pathway acknowledges individuals may still experience stress or stress-related behaviors, but the utilization of social support can decrease the affiliation between stress and physical health outcomes.

Postnatal social supports can range from lactation consulting, contraceptive counseling, maternal support services, and even support groups. This study utilized an extant data set (n = 239) from the research study, “Pregnancy and Childbirth During a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19.” A quantitative non-experimental cross-sectional design was conducted to explore associations among loss of expected social support and postpartum Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) scores. Results from the measures indicate a significant result of impact from loss of expected social support and increased postpartum EPDS scores. The results of this study may influence further action and research into sustaining maternity support services and programs for the pregnant and postpartum population.