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New parents’ experiences of postpartum depression

a systematic review of qualitative evidence

Holopainen, Arja1,2; Hakulinen, Tuovi2,3

JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports: April 23, 2019 - Volume Online First - Issue - p
doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2017-003909

Objectives: The objective of the review was to synthesize the evidence on new mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of postpartum depression (PPD).

Introduction: Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that affects women and, less frequently, men, typically during the first months after childbirth. It has been estimated that 10% to 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from postpartum depression, and it may have serious consequences for mothers, fathers and their children. Therefore, this review covers the experiences of both mothers and fathers.

Inclusion criteria: This qualitative review considered studies that included new mothers and fathers who had any number of children and who experienced PPD within a one-year postpartum period. The phenomenon of interest was the lived experience of new mothers and fathers with PPD. Qualitative studies including, but not limited to, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research and feminist research were considered.

Methods: The review systematically searched the following databases: MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Scopus and the Finnish database MEDIC. In addition, the search for unpublished articles included the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. The methodological quality of the included studies was assessed independently by two reviewers, and qualitative data were extracted from papers by two independent reviewers using a standardized data extraction tool. Qualitative research findings were pooled using the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology.

Results: Thirteen papers that considered mothers’ (n = 199) experiences of PPD were included in the review. A total of 98 findings were extracted and aggregated into 14 categories, and from them, four synthesized findings were developed: i) Depressed mothers feel unable to control their own lives due to low resilience; ii) The ambivalent feelings depressed mothers experience towards their babies, partners and in-laws cause distress and suffering; iii) Depressed mothers experience anger and despair if they perceive imbalances between their support needs and the support they get from healthcare providers and significant others; and iv) Depressed mothers experience hopelessness and helplessness resulting from their new-found motherhood and financial worries. Two papers that considered fathers’ (n = 20) experiences of PPD were included in the review. A total of 19 findings were extracted and aggregated into six categories, and from them, two synthesized findings were developed: i) Depressed fathers experience disappointment arising from perceived imbalances between their support needs and the support they get from their partner and significant others; and ii) Depressed fathers are more imbalanced after childbirth than fathers who are not suffering from PPD, so they feel unable to control their own lives due to low resilience.

Conclusions: The qualitative studies concerning new parents’ experiences of PPD have focused on the mother's perspective, and studies of the father's perspective, especially of the father's own experiences of PPD, are scarce. Both mothers and fathers did not receive enough support from their significant others. In addition, mothers wanted more support from health professionals. Because PPD has a great influence on the wellbeing of mothers and fathers, as well as children, it is important to understand what parents undergo after childbirth.

1Nursing Research Foundation, Helsinki, Finland

2The Finnish Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care: A Joanna Briggs Institute Affiliated Group

3National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

Correspondence: Arja Holopainen,

There is no conflict of interest in this project.

© 2019 by Lippincott williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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