Complex emotions, complex problems: understanding the experiences of perinatal depression among new mothers in urban Indonesia

Cult Med Psychiatry. 2007 Mar;31(1):101-22. doi: 10.1007/s11013-006-9040-0.


In this article, we explore how Javanese women identify and speak of symptoms of depression in late pregnancy and early postpartum and describe their subjective accounts of mood disorders. The study, conducted in the East Java region of Indonesia in 2000, involved in-depth interviews with a subgroup of women (N = 41) who scored above the cutoff score of 12/13 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) during pregnancy, at six weeks postpartum, or on both occasions. This sample was taken from a larger cohort study (N cohort = 488) researching the sociocultural factors that contribute to women's emotional well-being in early motherhood. The women used a variety of Indonesian and Javanese terms to explain their emotional states during pregnancy and in early postpartum, some of which coincided with the feelings described on the EPDS and others of which did not. Women attributed their mood variations to multiple causes including: premarital pregnancy, chronic illness in the family, marital problems, lack of support from partners or family networks, their husband's unemployment, and insufficient family income due to giving up their own paid work. We argue for the importance of understanding the context of childbearing in order to interpret the meaning of depression within complex social, cultural, and economic contexts.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Maternal Welfare / ethnology*
  • Maternal Welfare / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy / psychology
  • Psychology, Social*
  • Social Class
  • Urban Health*