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Keywords:

  • depression;
  • health visiting;
  • Hong Kong;
  • midwifery;
  • nursing;
  • postpartum stress

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to report a study of the lived experience of postpartum stress among depressed Hong Kong Chinese mothers.

Background.  Research consistently relates postpartum stress to the mood and well-being of mothers during the postpartum period. While several studies have used questionnaires to assess the stress levels of mothers or have identified stressors by asking them to list stressful events, the existing literature lacks in-depth information on the lived experience of postpartum stress from the perspective of the depressed mother.

Methods.  The study adopted a phenomenological approach with a purposive sample of 11 depressed Hong Kong Chinese mothers at around the sixth postpartum month. In-depth interviews were conducted in Cantonese and focused on the stress the mothers experienced during the postpartum period up to the time of the interview. The data were collected in 2000.

Results.  Living in a metropolitan city under the mixed and sometimes conflicting influences of cultures from the East and the West, Hong Kong Chinese mothers face a unique set of challenges which, if not properly managed, may cause stress and/or depression in the postpartum period. We identified five major postpartum stress themes amongst this group of women: parenting competence, the expectation–experience gap, baby-minder arrangements, childcare demands, and conflict with culture and tradition.

Conclusions.  Health care staff should give anticipatory guidance to mothers and their spouses about the culturally prescribed set of rules that proved stressful. Antenatal education classes need to enhanced, and support is needed to help this population of women manage and overcome the challenges in the postpartum period.