Postpartum depression: women's help-seeking behaviour and perceptions of cause

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Abstract

Research on postnatal depression has largely concentrated on investigating its possible causes. There have been few attempts to examine women's own perceptions and experiences of the condition or to explore the implications which these might have for help seeking and professional intervention. This paper reports on the experiences of depression of a sample of 60 first-time mothers. For the purposes of the study, depression was defined as the experience of depressed mood for a period of at least 2 weeks at some stage during the first 9 months postpartum. On this definition, depression was reported by a high proportion of the mothers (63%) and was found to be of early onset and lengthy duration. The majority of depressed mothers did not seek help from any source and only a quarter of them consulted a health professional. These low rates of consultation are explained in terms of mothers’ perceptions of the cause of their depression, their ideas about appropriate solutions and their reluctance to admit to experiencing emotional difficulties. The implications of the study for intervention by health professionals are discussed.

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