Women's Experiences of Seeking and Receiving Psychological and Psychosocial Interventions for Postpartum Depression: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis of the Qualitative Literature

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017 Nov;62(6):723-736. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12669. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


Introduction: Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious maternal disorder that can have adverse effects on maternal and infant health. The importance of offering effective and acceptable treatments is well recognized, particularly given the numerous barriers women in many settings face in accessing interventions for PPD. The aim of this systematic review was to synthesize qualitative research exploring women's experiences of professional psychological and psychosocial support for PPD.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted in April 2017 by searching 5 electronic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, PubMed, Ovid, and Web of Science). Qualitative research studies published in English that explored women's experiences of professional psychosocial support for PPD were included, whereas studies exploring women's experiences of antidepressant medication only were excluded. Seventeen articles met inclusion criteria and were appraised for methodologic quality. Data were synthesized using the interpretive thematic synthesis method.

Results: Four main themes were identified: the process of help-seeking, barriers to seeking and accepting support, valued aspects of support, and outcomes. Women found the process of seeking help difficult, with several barriers preventing them from both seeking and accepting professional support. Despite this, women described the support received as beneficial and particularly valued the therapeutic relationship. Women reported 1) feeling more positive and confident after receiving a psychological and/or psychosocial intervention and 2) experiencing better relationships with their infant and other family members.

Discussion: Although seeking and accepting professional support for PPD was a difficult process, women highly valued mental health care support and perceived it as beneficial. Clinical services should aim to address the barriers women face in accessing mental health care and empower women to feel in control throughout the process, offering interventions appropriate to each woman's personal circumstance.

Keywords: meta-synthesis; perinatal mental health; postnatal depression; women's health.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Postnatal Care / methods*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support*