Stress, social support, and health status of Chinese postpartum mothers
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During the postpartum period, new mothers may experience physical changes, mental disturbances, and adaptation to the maternal role. However, relationships between these three concepts have not been explored as a whole and their influencing factors are not fully studied. Especially for Chinese mothers, social support may be viewed negatively when it comes from parents-in-law. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to understand health and its influencing factors among Chinese mothers. This study involved a cross-sectional and correlational design. The conceptual framework guiding this study integrated a health model and the theory of stress. Well established instruments were used to measure perceived global stress, personal stress and support, importance of support and support received, general physical health, health conditions, depressive symptoms, and maternal competence. The effects of stress and social support on health outcomes were tested. A total of 150 Chinese mothers who were in their first year postpartum completed the survey. Results showed that mothers did not rate their health as good and they experienced an average of 5.03 and 3.91 kinds of health conditions within and after 2 months postpartum, respectively. Mothers did not have high maternal confidence and about 23.5% of mothers had a potential of being depressed. Mothers did not experience high level of stress and did not receive much social support. Mothers living with Chinese in-laws or not did not differ in level of stress and health measures. Mothers’ general physical health, health conditions, depressive symptoms, and maternal competence were correlated with each other. Perceived global stress had effects on all health measures. Support received had effects on general physical health and depressive symptoms, while importance of support had effects on depressive symptoms and maternal competence. Social support had moderating effects on stress and depression, and on stress and general physical health. The results suggested that culturally relevant postpartum care, which includes assessments of maternal health, maternal stress, and social support, should be provided to Chinese mothers. Future studies can focus on interventional studies in promoting maternal health with mothers of ethnic minorities and model testing on the conceptual framework used in this study.