The Lived Experiences of Male Partners of Women who have Previously Been Diagnosed with Postpartum Depression




Smith, Judy Kaye

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Postpartum depression (PPD) is a real complication in the postpartum period that affects 50 to 80% of all women giving birth but is not a condition that solely affects women (Beck, 2006). This qualitative descriptive phenomenological study based upon Husserl’s (1960, 1970) philosophical underpinnings was designed to gain a broader perspective about the phenomenon of postpartum depression (PPD) and its impact on the family structure through the lived experiences of male partners of women previously diagnosed with the disorder. A sample of seven men recruited through a community hospital participated in face-to-face audio taped interviews that were later transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were rigorously, critically, systematically analyzed and compared to identify common thematic patterns within and between the fathers’ individual experiences using a two group analysis and Spiegelberg’s (1965, 1975) six step process. The men experienced overarching feelings of being vulnerable when their partners’ behavior began to change in such a way that they did not recognize the person their partner had become after the birth of their baby. They began to rationalize the cause for the changes, with feelings ranging from annoyance to wanting a divorce. But as things changed within their family, fathers felt the overwhelming need to try to make things better for their families. The second major theme was one of being helpless to know what to do or say; but whatever they did was not right or good enough which they attributed to their lack of knowledge about postpartum depression. Given time, the third overall theme of coping emerged in which they were able to identify methods of dealing with the changes that occurred in their lives when their partner was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Suggestions included the need for more one to one education with parents, Also fathers need to be patient and more attuned to the needs of their partner. The foremost clinical implication from the study is the need for healthcare providers to develop better educational methods to relate information about postpartum depression to childbearing couples.



Postpartum depression, Male partners, Lived experience, Knowledge level