Exploring the influence of postnatal depression on neonatal care practices among mothers in Western Kenya: A qualitative study

Catherine Gribbin, Florence Achieng, Alloys K’Oloo, Hellen C. Barsosio, Edith Kwobah, Simon Kariuki, Helen M. Nabwera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Postnatal depression (PND) is associated with adverse infant neurodevelopmental outcomes. Evidence is limited on how PND influences neonatal (<28 days old) outcomes in low- and middle-income countries, such as Kenya, which bear the global burden of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Objectives: To explore how PND influences neonatal feeding and care practices among women in the early postnatal period in rural Western Kenya. Design: A cross-sectional study. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted at 2-weeks postpartum among mothers of newborn infants identified <72 h old from the postnatal wards and clinics across five health facilities in Kisumu County of Western Kenya. They were all screened for features suggestive of postnatal depression using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Results: Twenty-four mothers were interviewed, 13 of whom had features suggestive of PND. All mothers experienced health or socio-economic adversities in the perinatal period, including traumatic deliveries, financial constraints, and challenging relationships with partners/other family members. Feeding difficulties due to perceived insufficient breastmilk were a particular challenge for mothers with features of PND, who were more likely to introduce complementary feeds. Maternal health-seeking decisions were influenced by high financial cost, long waiting times and poor interactions with health care providers that induced stress and fear among mothers. Maternal caregiving capacity was influenced by her ability to juggle other household duties, which was difficult for mothers with features suggestive of PND. Support from friends and relatives positively impacted maternal mood and caregiving ability. Conclusion: Mothers experienced many stress-inducing events in the perinatal period which potentially exacerbated features of PND in the immediate postnatal period. Women with features of PND were particularly vulnerable to these stressors that influenced infant caregiving practices. Addressing the socio-economic challenges and health system gaps that include scale up of compassionate and respectful care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as early screening and intervention of PND, through enhanced referral pathways between health facilities and community support structures, could mitigate against the impact of PND on neonatal caregiving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's Health
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Kenya
  • care practices
  • feeding
  • neonates
  • postnatal depression


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