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A qualitative study of depressive symptoms and well-being among first-time mothers


Silje M. Haga, Waldemar Thranesgate 22, 0171 Oslo, Norway.


Scand J Caring Sci; 2012; 26; 458–466

A qualitative study of depressive symptoms and well-being among first-time mothers

Background and aim:  Ten to 15% of women experience postpartum depression. First-time mothers are particularly at risk. The present qualitative study aimed to gain insight in terms of why some women find the transition of becoming a mother to be so emotionally taxing that they feel some level of depressed mood, while others feel mostly content after having a baby.

Method:  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 self-selected first-time mothers. Participants described their pregnancy and birth experience, expectations and experiences with regard to the postpartum period, social support and what they considered important with regard to well-being and depression in the postpartum period. Data were analysed by means of thematic analyses. Ethical approval was granted by the Regional Ethics Committee.

Results:  Two approaches to motherhood emerged, which we refer to as ‘relaxed’ and ‘controlled’. These approaches influenced how the mothers had envisioned the postpartum period, their need for mastery and how they experienced it emotionally. Social support and managing breastfeeding stood out as important with regard to well-being and depressive symptoms.

Conclusion:  Frequent consultations with midwifes and public health nurses during the pregnancy and the postpartum period gives unique opportunities for preventive work. The consultations should to a greater extent focus on the woman’s expectations and needs, and the partner should be present for an open discussion on how they best support each other in this vulnerable period.