Older mothers’ experiences of postnatal depression. An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Hannan, Julie (2015) Older mothers’ experiences of postnatal depression. An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Other thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute.


This study uses Interpretative Phenomenology Analysis to explore the lived experience of postnatal depression. The four participants, all aged 30 years or above at the birth of their first child, had never suffered from depression prior to the birth. Each was interviewed on two separate occasions, with a period of 4 to 6 months between interviews. The inductive approach of IPA sought to capture the richness and complexity of participants’ lived emotional world.
Six superordinate themes emerged from the interviews: striving to be a perfect mother; feeling a failure; being sucked dry; shame of the others gaze; feeling stuck and overwhelmed and becoming lost. Participants sacrificed themselves in the hopeless pursuit of their own expectations of being the perfect mother and fulfilling all their child’s needs. Not wanting to appear inadequate to others, and desperate to make sense of what was happening to them, they continued to suffer in silence in a context of depleting resources and the loss of their former life, wellbeing and sense of self.
The findings suggest that particular themes of postnatal depression exist within older mothers’ experiences. While such themes may be less relevant to younger mothers, their presence suggests a tailored treatment approach for older first-time mothers with PND.
Aspects of these findings can be found in previous postnatal depression research with primigravida and multigravida women of varying ages. In a situation where postnatal depression is the most common complication of childbearing in the UK, affecting between ten and fifteen percent of new mothers (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2014) and where the birth rate for women aged 30+ is growing faster than for any other age group in the UK, research that furthers understanding of the experience of postnatal depression for mothers in this age group can help guide interventions and support.
(The words ‘postnatal depression’ and ‘postpartum depression’ are used interchangeably in this text).

Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy (DCPsych)
JHannanThesis.pdf - Accepted Version

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