Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

A systematic review of concepts related to women’s empowerment in the perinatal period and their associations with perinatal depressive symptoms and premature birth



The perinatal period, which we here define as pregnancy and the first year postpartum, is a time in women's lives that involves significant physiological and psychosocial change and adjustment, including changes in their social status and decision-making power. Supporting women's empowerment at this particular time in their lives may be an attractive opportunity to create benefits for maternal and infant health outcomes such as reductions in perinatal depressive symptoms and premature birth rates. Thus, we here systematically review and critically discuss the literature that investigates the effects of empowerment, empowerment-related concepts and empowerment interventions on reductions in perinatal depressive symptoms, preterm birth (PTB), and low birthweight (LBW).


For this systematic review, we conducted a literature search in PsychInfo, PubMed, and CINAHL without setting limits for date of publication, language, study design, or maternal age. The search resulted in 27 articles reporting on 25 independent studies including a total of 17,795 women.


The majority of studies found that, for the most part, measures of empowerment and interventions supporting empowerment are associated with reduced perinatal depressive symptoms and PTB/LBW rates. However, findings are equivocal and a small portion of studies found no significant association between empowerment-related concepts and perinatal depressive symptoms and PTB or LBW.


This small body of work suggests, for the most part, that empowerment-related concepts may be protective for perinatal depressive symptoms and PTB/LBW. We recommend that future theory-driven and integrative work should include an assessment of different facets of empowerment, obtain direct measures of empowerment, and address the relevance of important confounders, including for example, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View