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Unemployment and psychological distress one year after childbirth in France


STUDY OBJECTIVE To analyse the relation between unemployment and the psychological distress of mothers one year after childbirth.

DESIGN Multicentric survey concerning births occurring between September 1993 and July 1994.

SETTING In France: two maternity units in the Parisian area and one in Champagne-Ardennes, in the east of France, comprising both urban and rural areas.

PARTICIPANTS Primipara and secondipara women were interviewed three times: at birth by a face to face interview, five months and 12 months after the birth, by postal questionnaires, with a 83% response rate for the two postal questionnaires. The analysis includes 632 women who answered all three stages of the survey.

MEASUREMENTS Psychological distress was mainly assessed one year after birth by the 12-item General Health Questionnaire.

RESULTS After adjustment for unwanted pregnancy, marital conflicts, marital status, hospitalisation of the baby during the last year, lack of confiding relationship, depressive or anxious troubles before pregnancy, age, educational level and parity, unemployed women had an excess of psychological distress compared with employed women (OR = 1.87; 95%CI = 1.12, 3.13). The ratios for housewives were very close to those of employed women. Among the unemployed women, 60% had recently been without a job, since a few months before or after the birth. An excess of psychological distress among unemployed compared with employed women was observed in all social groups defined by the current or last occupation, but with various extents. Psychological distress was specially linked to the employment status in the group of women with the more qualified occupations.

CONCLUSION Even after a birth, when women are very much involved in their maternal role, those seeking a job have worse mental health than those in a stable situation, either employed or housewives. In France, the unemployment rate among young women is high. It is specially important that social regulations protecting employment during and after pregnancy are adequately applied. Employers, legislators, such as medical doctors, have to be aware to this situation.

  • psychological distress
  • unemployment
  • childbirth
  • women's health

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  • Funding: the survey was funded by a CNAMTS-INSERM 1992 contract. Marie-Josèphe Saurel-Cubizolles and Patrizia Romito obtained a grant for collaborative research from an INSERM-CNR agreement (1997–1998).

  • Conflicts of interest: none.