Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

J Affect Disord. 2022 Aug 15;311:239-246. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.05.109

Body image dissatisfaction and interoceptive sensibility significantly predict postpartum depressive symptoms

Background: During pregnancy women experience rapid and unique changes in body weight, shape and size over a relatively short time period. While research focused on the role of external bodily modifications during pregnancy, research on internal bodily variations is missing.
Methods: In a longitudinal study, we recruited healthy pregnant women and measured whether and how depressive symptoms, body image dissatisfaction and the subjective tendency to focus on one's own internal bodily sensations, i.e., interoceptive sensibility, changed during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnant women filled online self-report questionnaires during pregnancy (i.e. second and third trimester) and after (i.e. six weeks) the delivery, including the Body Areas Satisfaction Scale, the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness, and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
Results: While depressive symptoms remained stable in the peripartum, body image dissatisfaction increased in the postpartum compared to the pregnancy period, and interoceptive sensibility increased over pregnancy. Findings showed that the increase of body dissatisfaction through the peripartum and the levels of interoceptive sensibility in the early phase of pregnancy predicted depressive symptoms in the postpartum.
Limitations: Interoception was evaluated as a subjective measure (i.e., interoceptive sensibility). Future studies may include objective measures of interoceptive accuracy and interoceptive awareness.
Conclusions: The current study supports the importance of body image dissatisfaction and interoceptive sensibility in the development of postpartum depressive symptoms. Future studies need to investigate if interventions aimed to increase interoceptive sensibility might be useful in preventing depressive symptoms and identify the mechanisms that can lead to these changes.

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