Postnatal depression: exploring adolescent women's experiences and perceptions of being depressed
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Adolescent pregnancy has been of longstanding societal concern primarily because of the inability of most young mothers to provide adequately for their infants. Depression often results in disengagement from mother-child interaction. Adolescent mothers identified as depressed are at increased risk of future psychopathology, with additional deleterious effects on their infants’ lives. The purpose of this study was to explore adolescent mothers’ experiences of motherhood and memories of feeling depressed during or after the birth of their babies. The first aim was to explore the young women’s experiences of mothering, by focusing upon the practice of being a mother. The second aim was to explore the young women’s experiences of depression, by focusing on their physical behaviour and emotional experiences. The third aim was to explore their perceptions of the causes of their depression. The rationale for this study was that these issues will further enhance the body of knowledge available to practitioners working with adolescent mothers. It will also provide a source of insights and hypotheses for preventive intervention research. The study was located within a feminist standpoint framework that begins from the perspective of women with the aim to explore women’s accounts of their experiences in relation to depression as an important source of knowledge. A qualitative research design and methodology was employed in the region of the Western Cape. Eight adolescent mothers between the ages of 16 and 19 were recruited and interviewed. The interviews were semi-structured and consisted out of open-ended questions. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis of data was carried out. The findings of this research yielded some interesting areas for future research and implications for treatment and intervention with first-time adolescent mothers. The adolescent mothers in this study experienced similar depressive symptoms to adult mothers in previous research. All the participants revealed that they feared their parents’ disappointment in them for being pregnant. This factor contributed to their depression, because they received very little (if any) support from their parents or the father of their baby. The participants discussed that their pregnancy or giving birth was linked to various aspects of themselves that they had lost as an adolescent. Before they received counselling, none of the participants understood why they experienced depressive symptoms or what was happening to them at the time after their pregnancies.