Trajectories of social support in pregnancy and early postpartum: findings from the All Our Families cohort
Introduction: Low social support during the perinatal period can increase the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety after giving birth but little is known about women’s trajectories of social support during this time. The objective of this study is to identify trajectories of social support among women from second trimester to 4-month postpartum, and the characteristics associated with different trajectories.
Methods: Data from the All Our Families longitudinal birth cohort was used to assess women’s perceived social support during their second trimester, third trimester, and at 4-month postpartum (n = 3387). Group-based trajectory modeling was used to determine the number of groups, shape of trajectories, and proportion of women with differing trajectories. Multinomial regression was used to compare probability of group membership.
Results: Six distinct trajectory groups were identified, with the majority of participants belonging to groups with stable, high social support (60.6%). Only 2.7% of women had consistently low levels of social support, and 2.3% had rising levels. Membership in groups with lower levels of social support was associated with lower incomes and minority ethnicity. Women whose support improved over time may be more likely to be employed in pregnancy than those whose support remained low.
Conclusion: Trajectories of social support are relatively stable in pregnancy and early postpartum. Socio-demographic indicators of vulnerability predict initial levels of support, and participating in the workforce may help improve perception of support over time.