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Body Mass Index, Eating Attitudes, and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Carter, Alice S. PhD; Baker, Christina Wood MS; Brownell, Kelly D. PhD


Objective: This report describes associations between body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), eating attitudes, and affective symptoms across pregnancy and the postpartum period in a sample of 64 women.

Methods: As part of a larger study, women were recruited during pregnancy and followed prospectively to 14 months postpartum. Measures included self-reported prepregnancy and 4-month postpartum BMI as well as pregnancy, 4-month, and 14-month postpartum eating attitudes (EAT), depressive symptoms (CES-D), and anxiety symptoms (STAI).

Results: During pregnancy, symptoms of depression or anxiety were not significantly correlated with concurrent eating attitudes or measures of BMI. However, at 14 months postpartum, measures of eating attitudes and both depression and anxiety symptoms were associated. Measures of BMI were associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms at both 4 and 14 months postpartum. Four-month eating attitudes and BMI predicted 14-month postpartum depressive symptoms, beyond pregnancy, and 4-month postpartum measures of affective symptoms. Results suggested that overweight women were at risk for elevated anxiety at 4 months and depressive symptoms at both 4 and 14 months postpartum.

Conclusions: These results provide evidence for a significant, albeit moderate, relationship between BMI, eating attitudes, and symptoms of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period that are not present during pregnancy.

From the Departments of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston (A.S.C.), Boston, MA, and Yale University (C.W.B., K.D.B.) New Haven, CT.

Received for publication November 9, 1998;

revision received August 24, 1999.

Address reprint requests to: Alice S. Carter, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA. Email:

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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