Evaluation of expressive writing for postpartum health: A randomized controlled trial

Ayers, S., Crawley, R., Button, S., Thornton, A., Field, A., Flood, C., Lee, S., Eagle, A., Bradley, R., Moore, D., Gyte, G. & Smith, H. (2018). Evaluation of expressive writing for postpartum health: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,

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Pregnancy, birth and adjusting to a new baby is a potentially stressful time that can negatively affect the health of women. There is some evidence that expressive writing can have positive effects on psychological and physical health, particularly during stressful periods. The current study aimed to evaluate whether expressive writing would improve women’s postpartum health. A randomized controlled trial was conducted with three conditions: expressive writing (n=188), a control writing task (n=213), or normal care (n=163). Measures of psychological health, physical health and quality of life were measured at baseline (6-12 weeks postpartum), 1 month and 6 months later. Ratings of stress were taken before and after the expressive writing task. Intent-to-treat analyses showed no significant differences between women in the expressive writing, control writing and normal care groups on measures of physical health, anxiety, depression, mood or quality of life at 1 and 6 months. Uptake and adherence to the writing tasks was low. However, women in the expressive writing group rated their stress as significantly reduced after completing the task. Cost analysis suggest women who did expressive writing had the lowest costs in terms of healthcare service use and lowest cost per unit of improvement in quality of life. Results suggest expressive writing is not effective as a universal intervention for all women 6-12 weeks postpartum. Future research should examine expressive writing as a targeted intervention for women in high-risk groups, such as those with mild or moderate depression, and further examine cost-effectiveness.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article to be published in Journal of Behavioral Medicine. The final authenticated version will be available online at: http://link.springer.com/journal/10865
Uncontrolled Keywords: postpartum; mental health; physical health; quality of life; expressive writing; selfhelp
Divisions: School of Health Sciences
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/19596

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