A qualitative analysis of the role of the baby in recovery from psychosis after childbirth.

  • Charlene Plunkett

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


Paper one is a metasynthesis of studies exploring mothers' experiences of recovery from postnatal mental illness. Four databases were systematically searched using key words and index terms to identify the qualitative literature exploring mothers' experiences of recovery from postnatal mental illness. Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were critically appraised and synthesised. These papers reported the views of 395 women's experiences of recovery from postnatal mental illness. Five core themes emerged from the synthesis to describe four key processes that facilitate recovery. This experience begins with recognising the problem through crisis and relational distress. Women then go through the process of seeking help which consists of subthemes of accepting help and help to access help. The next process in the in the journey is achieving recovery which includes subthemes of sharing with others like me, coping strategies and noticing recovery. The final process of maintaining recovery consists of incorporating coping strategies into daily life; acquiring a different model of motherhood and processing the experience. The role of the family was interwoven through each stage of recovery. Recommendations were made for professionals who come into contact with this group of women and their families. The review highlighted gaps in the existing evidence and made recommendations for future research. The findings and limitations were discussed with reference to the existing literature. Paper two explored the role of the baby in 12 mothers' experiences of recovery from psychosis after childbirth. A thematic analysis of the data identified three core themes that described the role of the baby in the mothers' recovery. Findings revealed that the baby was central to women's recovery and could be experienced as both helpful and unhelpful. The baby interacted with the mother; increasing self efficacy and reducing emotional distress. The baby could act as a barrier to recovery by increasing the women's emotional distress and hindering access to help and self care. The findings recommended that women receive specialist treatment in mother and baby units where they can access interventions that support parent - infant interactions. The findings of the study add to the existing evidence base on recovery from psychosis after childbirth and highlighted areas for future research.Paper three is a critique of the research carried out in Papers one and two. This paper discussed the rationale for the research design in both papers. Approaches to data sampling and data analysis are reviewed with reference to researcher reflexivity. The search strategy and critical appraisal of techniques of the metasynthesis are also critiqued. Paper three closes with personal reflections and conclusions drawn from both papers.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnja Wittkowski (Supervisor) & Sarah Peters (Supervisor)


  • Puerperal Psychosis, Postnatal Depression, Childbirth, Recovery
  • Qualitative, Metasynthesis, Thematic Analysis

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