Women’s Experience of Accessing Maternal Mental Health Support: An Interpretive Description Approach
Maternal mental health conditions affect 12-18% of New Zealand mothers and suicide is the leading cause of death for women in the perinatal period. Although maternal mental health conditions affect so many New Zealand mothers, little is known about the experience of New Zealand mothers who have a maternal mental health condition.
This research study examines the experience of women being diagnosed with a maternal mental health condition and their experience of accessing support services. Interpretative descriptive methodology was used throughout this research.
Maternal mental health conditions are mental health conditions diagnosed within the perinatal period – the period from pregnancy up to a year postpartum. A scoping review examined the experiences of women accessing maternal mental health services within a global context and provided the literature to underpin this qualitative research in a New Zealand context.
Seven women who had been diagnosed with a maternal mental health condition and had accessed maternal mental health services were recruited within the Canterbury region, New Zealand. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect their stories for interpretation and analysis. Four themes that affected the women’s experiences were drawn from the data. These themes were: lifestyle challenges, the impact of relationships, burden carrying and the importance of support people to advocate.
Recommendations to policy makers and health care professionals are made to improve maternal mental health outcomes for New Zealand mothers. This is through education for pregnant women, education for midwives in undergraduate and post-graduate programmes and providing a national maternal mental health pathway with services in all regions to improve accessibility and care for New Zealand women.