Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Spiritual Support for Women with Postpartum Depression

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Spiritual Support for Women with Postpartum Depression

Article excerpt

Postpartum depression affects between 15% and 25% of women annually, yet there is little research illustrating the kinds of treatment women would be more partial to, particularly spiritual assistance. The researchers administered a telephone-based survey to 45 women who were experiencing or had experienced postpartum depression. Primarily categorical data were collected and analyzed using nonparametric assessments including Pearson's chi-square. Results indicate that nearly 66% of the women found strength in religion. Five categories of spiritual support were identified: spiritual guidance, counseling from the head of a religious organization, congregational support, spiritual-based support groups, and prayer support. Differences in these categories of support were found to be different by mental health history, race, and access to other services. This study supports the need for spiritually-based assistance to be made available to women postpartum and for spiritual leaders to be prepared to provide this assistance.

By the year 2030, depression is projected to be one of the top three leading causes of death in the world (Mathers & Loncar, 2006). One of the least addressed types of depression is that experienced by women postpartum, affecting between 15% to 25% women annually (Moses-Kolko & Roth, 2004; O'Hara & Swain, 1996), yet there have been reports of between 34%-55% of women suffering with this disorder (Barnett, 1991; PRAMS, 2002; WHO, 2003).

Postpartum depression appears to occur more frequently in socially and economically disadvantaged communities with rates up to twice as frequent in African American and Latino communities than in Caucasians (Howell, Mora, Horowitz, & Leventhal, 2005; Martinez-Schallmoser, Telleen, & MacMullen, 2003; MosesKolko & Roth, 2004). These populations also have a tendency to integrate spirituality and religion into their culture, family traditions, and neighborhood communities (Taylor, Ellison, Chatters, Levin, & Lincoln, 2000).

Of women who have experienced postpartum depression (PPD), up to 50% will experience a reoccurrence of symptoms, often in increased severity, during subsequent pregnancies (Nonacs & Cohen, 2000). Suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, accounting for 20% of female mortality during this time, with 5% - 14% of these women having thoughts to end her life (Lindahl, Pearson, & Colpe, 2005). Postpartum depression is characterized by anxiety, a short temper, feeling hopeless and/or guilt, a decrease in appetite, inability to concentrate/focus, decreased interest in the baby and/or life in general, altered mood, and either too much or too little sleep (WHO, 2003).


While there are copious interventions researched to treat PPD, undoubtedly the most common treatment is prescribing antidepressants (Marcus et al, 2001). Yet, women report that a common deterrent to seeking and accessing PPD care is the prescription of medication without discussion of other options (Wood & Meigan, 1997).

Treatment protocols can roughly be categorized as either medication-based or psychosociallybased. In addition to medicinal treatment, other medical-based treatments include hormone treatment, and alternative medicines, which include supplements and exercise (Ahokas, Kaukoranta, Wahlbeck, & Aito, 2001; Armstrong & Edwards, 2004; Cattell & King, 1996; Currie, Boxer, & Devlin, 2001; Freeman, Hibbeln, Wisner, Brumbach, Watchman, & Gelenberg, 2006; Gregoire, Kumar, Everitt, Hendersobn, & Studd, 1996; Llorente, Jensen, Voigt, Fraley, Beretta, & Heird, 2003; Mantel, 2001). In addition, the medical perspective also advocates hospitalization, day treatment programs, and home visitation programs (Armstrong, Fraser, Dadds, & Morris, 1999; Boath, Cox, Lewis, Jones, & Price, 1999; Boulvain, Perneger, Othenin-Girard, Petrou, Berner, & Irion, 2004; Parke & Hardy, 1997; Ushiroyama, Sakuma, & Ueki, 2005). …

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