Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in as many as 1 in 7 women (Gavin et al., 2005). PPD remains underdiagnosed and largely untreated, contributing to high societal costs and increased maternal mortality. Despite the wealth of research reporting the adverse effects of PPD on childbearing women and their offspring, little is known about how women who have experienced PPD describe or interpret the meaning of the experience in later life. I conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 10 women self-identifying as having had PPD a minimum of 13 years in the past. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) I identified three themes: (a) what PPD was like, (b) PPD changed me, and (c) I am grateful for PPD. Women reported that PPD was like falling down a black hole, perceiving themselves as bad mothers. Women identified PPD as having changed them in positive ways, including new self-confidence, increased compassion, and a passion to help others impacted by PPD. Women described PPD as facilitating meaningful personal growth for which they were grateful. Understanding how women reflect on PPD in later life provides new insight into the lived experience beyond the postpartum period and highlighting the need for future research women’s experience of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders over their life span.


postpartum depression (PPD), phenomenology, meaning, lifespan, qualitative, IPA

Author Bio(s)

Walker Ladd (she/her/hers) is full-time faculty in the Department of Research for Saybrook University, where she teaches research methodology and serves on dissertation committees. Her research agenda includes perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, maternal mental health, the stigma of mental illness, and traumatic stress related to birth and the postpartum period. Please direct correspondence to wladd@saybrook.edu.

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