This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Exploratory Study of Home Interior Design Features to Support Maternal Mental Health and Well-Being in the Postpartum Period




Martin, Kelly

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Consumer and Design Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



The national maternal mortality crisis in the United States is a problem of urgent importance marked by clear disparities when examining death rates based upon race, ethnicity, and region of the country. Upon reviewing the contextual factors leading to death among mothers during pregnancy and in the year following birth, maternal mortality review committees across the country have identified that the vast majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. Among the preventable deaths, mental health disorders were one of the most commonly identified underlying causes. Postpartum depression is a mental health disorder which plays a role in the maternal mortality crisis through its link to suicide. The postpartum period can be a particularly difficult time due to the vast physiological and psychological transitions in healing after birth and adapting to motherhood. This transition may be particularly difficult for mothers who have experienced maternal morbidity and those who are vulnerable due to the harmful impact of racism. The home environment becomes the setting where physical healing and psychological adaptation to motherhood occur for most women postpartum, indicating the importance of designing the home environment in a way that is maximally supportive of mental health and well-being among mothers. A growing evidence base demonstrates the ability of the built environment to impact mental health and well-being, but there is a major gap in the literature measuring the potential impact of interior design features of the home on mental health and well-being of mothers. This study examined how interior design features of the home may play a role in maternal mental health and well-being in the postpartum period. A sample of 410 women from across the United States participated in an online survey about interior design features present in their home during the first six weeks after giving birth and their mental health and well-being at the time. Results revealed preliminary evidence for the positive impact of supportive interior design features of the home on maternal depressive outcomes through their mediating impact on maternal well-being at home. This study positions interior design research to contribute a diverse perspective for addressing the national maternal mortality crisis, laying the groundwork for future studies which may inform residential interior design policy for maternal mental health and well-being in private single-family homes, multi-family residential settings, and government assisted housing.