Postnatal Depression in African Mothers

  • Philippa Gardner

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


Paper one is a systematic review aimed at improving our understanding of the culturally determined risk factors of postnatal depression (PND) within 'Sub-Saharan Africa', by integrating evidence from quantitative and qualitative studies. A mixed-method systematic review approach was employed, nine quantitative and three qualitative studies were quality assessed, synthesised, and integrated. Stressful life events, adhering to cultural values and traditions, the effects of negative cultural perceptions and difficulties within the African extended family system were found to be risk factors for the development and maintenance of PND in Sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of paper two was to explore the lived experience of postnatal depression in West African mothers living in the UK. A qualitative design using semi-structured interviews with six West African mothers (Nigeria = 3; Ghana = 3) who were experiencing low mood in the postnatal period was undertaken. Participants were recruited from mother and baby groups within the National Health Service. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to explore and analyse the data. Five overarching themes emerged: (1) conceptualiszing PND, (2) isolation, (3) loss of identity, (4) issues of trust and (5) relationships as a protective factor. Each theme consisted of a number of subthemes. Women exhibited symptoms of PND but did not regard it as an illness, with the name 'depression'. They viewed their emotional distress as a result of social stress, and described feelings of isolation, loss of identity and relationship difficulties. Women's cultural background influenced their help-seeking behaviour; participants often avoided talking about their feelings and kept their distress to themselves. The findings have clinical implications in how services should be designed to meet the needs of African communities.Paper three reflects on the process of developing culturally competent research through the development of the current thesis. Suggestions for future research and reflections on the strengths and limitations of the research process are embedded throughout. Clinical implications are discussed with reference to a community psychology model.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnja Wittkowski (Supervisor), Dawn Edge (Supervisor) & Penelope Trayner (Supervisor)


  • Postnatal Depression
  • West Africa
  • Qualitative
  • Interperative Phenomenological Analisys
  • Systematic review

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