• postpartum mood disorders;
  • help-seeking behaviors;
  • barriers;
  • enablers


Objective: To explore the barriers and enablers identified by women experiencing a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) that preclude and facilitate their help-seeking behaviors for this often devastating illness.

Design: A qualitative study using a grounded theory approach.

Setting: Well-Baby Clinics offered through the Public Health Department, Early Years Centres, Mothercraft, and a Parent Resource Centre in a large Canadian city.

Participants: Ten women who had either been formally diagnosed as having a PPMD or who self-identified as experiencing a constellation of symptoms indicative of a PPMD.

Methods: Interviews that were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a grounded theory approach as described by Strauss and Corbin.

Results: The core category of “having postpartum” captured the essence of women's experiences in seeking help for a PPMD. Women identified four main stressors that contributed to their development of a PPMD, two barrier categories, and an enabler category that influenced their help-seeking behaviors. Through navigation of formal and informal help, women were able to begin to reclaim the mothering instincts they had lost to mental illness.

Conclusions: Pregnancy, birth, and becoming a mother collectively represent a critical period of physical and emotional upheaval in a woman's life. The need for a holistic care approach that supports the emotional and physical health of the dyad is imperative.