When the bough bends: lived experiences of perinatal anxiety

Powell, Zalia Rose (2018) When the bough bends: lived experiences of perinatal anxiety. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I present qualitative critical feminist research that explores the lived experiences of women who identify as having perinatal anxiety. Perinatal anxiety is a highly prevalent mental health issue that has implications for women's morbidity and mortality, and for the physical, social, emotional and developmental wellbeing of their children. Dominant diagnostic custom has seen perinatal anxiety overshadowed by a focus on postnatal depression, resulting in a scarcity of research that considers perinatal anxiety as a standalone mental health issue. This research thus makes an important contribution to the academic discussion about perinatal mental health care.

The lived experiences of women with perinatal anxiety are largely absent in the literature; as a result, women continue to experience this debilitating condition in silence. I approached this critical feminist research using qualitative methods to collect and analyse the everyday narratives of women with perinatal anxiety to develop rich understanding of the experiences of perinatal anxiety and how they are influenced by dominant ideologies.

I carried out in-depth interviews with women who identified as experiencing perinatal anxiety, and with multidisciplinary perinatal practitioners. The interviews were conducted over a two-year period and were audio-taped and transcribed for a thematic analysis of the themes present in the data.

The narratives and perspectives of the women and practitioners led me to identify four overarching themes: 'Good Motherhood', 'Warning Signs and Cries for Help', 'Mental Health Literacy' and 'Strengths and Support'. These themes reflect the complex context of motherhood and mental illness and connect the everyday lives of women with perinatal anxiety to a broader institution of oppression, silencing and control. The research sheds light on directions for future investigations and practice, including holistic and coordinated practice that considers the unique experiences of women with perinatal anxiety. This research recognises gaps in the mental health care approach for anxious mothers, including the mental health literacy of both practitioners and the women they treat. In this thesis, I make a call for social work to play a central role in providing care that recognises the multilayered biopsychosocial needs of women with perinatal anxiety, and that works to improve mental health literacy for consumers, practitioners and the broader community. Finally, I argue for the importance of a critical feminist approach to understanding the lived experiences of perinatal anxiety if meaningful change is to be achieved.

Item ID: 57448
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: perinatal anxiety, feminist theory, lived experience, women's health, mental health, motherhood
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Zalia Rose Powell
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2019 01:42
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160799 Social Work not elsewhere classified @ 60%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2203 Philosophy > 220306 Feminist Theory @ 20%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169901 Gender Specific Studies @ 20%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920507 Womens Health @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 40%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940112 Families and Family Services @ 30%
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