Depression during pregnancy is prevalent. Research has found that male partners of women with depression are at increased risk for emotional distress during and after pregnancy. Although some research has shown that Latinas are at increased risk for perinatal depression, very little research has been conducted with their Latino partners during pregnancy. This pilot mixed method study aimed to understand the emotional experience of Latino couples during pregnancy.
A convenience sample of 15 heterosexual, low-income Latino couples (93% immigrants; 47% married; 53% couples from El Salvador) was recruited from a federally qualified health center in Washington, D.C. Each partner completed questionnaires on depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory) and an interview separately. The interviews inquired about the experience of pregnancy, marital relationships, and parenting expectations. All interviews were conducted in Spanish, audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed by three bilingual coders. Thematic content analysis was used to identify major themes across the interviews.
Females’ PHQ-9 and BAI mean scores were 5.79 (SD=4.32) and 8.57(SD=8.86), respectively. Males’ mean PHQ-9 and BAI scores were 2.83 (SD=3.95) and 2.31(SD=3.80), respectively.Qualitative analyses indicated that most couples endorsed several themes: (a) happiness about being pregnant; (b) communication was identified as the key to a healthy relationship and prenatal experience; (c) individuals reported feeling supported by their partner during pregnancy; (d) use of religious coping (e.g., prayer) or positive thinking during pregnancy to deal with stress (predominantly women’s physical symptoms and finances difficulties); and (e) both partners men and women intended to practice authoritative parenting in the postpartum.
Both Latino women and men in this community sample reported very few symptoms of depression and anxiety. Consistent with these low scores, both partners reported having a loving relationship with their partners during pregnancy and very much look forward to their baby’s birth. Our findings highlighted the use of religious coping and good communication skills to manage the stressors commonly experienced during pregnancy among healthy Latino couples. This is one of the first studies to include Latino fathers to understand couples’ experiences during pregnancy. Future research should examine if these themes persist into the postpartum period, which may have implications for preventive intervention development.