Over 70,000 mothers in the UK suffer from postnatal depression, costing the NHS over £70,000 for each case, considering the health and social care needs of both mother and child. The majority of symptoms are similar to those of clinical depression, with additional symptoms specific to postnatal depression including sleep deprivation; being hormonally unstable; doubting ability to be a mother; worrying obsessively about the baby; having difficulties bonding with the baby; having guilt feelings about not enjoying this stage of life. The effects of a mother’s poor emotional response towards herself and others interferes with interpersonal relationships, particularly reducing the mother-child bond. This can impact on the child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. The biological and psychological causes for postnatal depression are well established. Reduced social capital (quality and quantity of social interactions) greatly increases the risk of developing postnatal depression, but the mechanisms of action and how these may be ameliorated with interventions are less well understood.
Occupational therapists maximise functioning within daily activities (referred to as occupations), using coping strategies and adaptation to overcome the associated difficulties of a physical or mental health illness. Currently, few occupational therapists are involved in the care of women with postnatal depression, despite the significant changes to lifestyle and impact of role adjustment during motherhood.
Though research is available around interventions within the UK focusing on medication management, psychological treatments and social interventions, no studies have explored the differences in daily occupations between mothers with and without postnatal depression. This project aims to utilise mixed methods to explore the occupational balances of mothers with and without postnatal depression for comparison. There is a particular focus on the effect of accrued social capital and levels of social support, potentially advocating for occupational therapy involvement in perinatal care. This will be achieved by answering the following research questions;
- How does social support and accrued social capital, during or after birth, impact on postnatal depression symptoms for mothers?
- What are the differences in the daily occupational engagement and occupational balance between mothers with and without postnatal depression?