The experiences of mothers who received therapy for postnatal depression: a qualitative study

Ruaro, Laura (2013) The experiences of mothers who received therapy for postnatal depression: a qualitative study. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


A sizeable percentage of women develop psychiatric symptoms after the birth of a baby. Postnatal depression (PND) is the most widespread of such conditions, with an average incidence rate of 13%. Postnatal depression represents a serious public health concern because it may have adverse effects on the physical, emotional and cognitive development of children, as well as affecting the mother herself, the mental health of fathers and the marital relationship. It is imperative to treat postnatal depression early and effectively. Mothers consistently indicate that they prefer therapy to antidepressants, because of concerns over their safety when breastfeeding. However, there is still a scarcity of research on psychological treatments for this population, and what research is available indicates lower response to psychological treatments compared to other populations. This qualitative study investigated mothers' experiences of therapy, to understand how therapists can best respond to the needs of mothers suffering from postnatal depression. Eight semi -structured interviews were carried out with mothers who were recruited via the Association of Postnatal Illness. Data collected was subjected to an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Three themes emerged that encapsulate how therapists can facilitate recovery from postnatal depression: creating a safe space, assuaging guilt, and empowering. The themes articulate how therapists can adapt their therapeutic stance and the therapeutic focus to address some of the needs of this population. Tailoring of assessment, formulation and therapy to each individual client emerged to be imperative given the heterogeneity of needs, symptoms and vulnerabilities characterising mothers suffering from PND. Findings are discussed in the context of previous research on psychological treatments for postnatal depression.

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