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Seeking help for perinatal psychological distress: A meta-synthesis of women’s experiences

Seeking help for perinatal psychological distress: A meta-synthesis of women’s experiences

Button, Susan, Thornton, Alexandra, Lee, Suzanne, Shakespeare, Judy and Ayers, Susan (2017) Seeking help for perinatal psychological distress: A meta-synthesis of women’s experiences. British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), 67 (663). e692-e699. ISSN 0960-1643 (Print), 1478-5242 (Online) (doi:

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Women may not seek help for perinatal psychological distress, despite regular contact with primary care services. Barriers include ignorance of symptoms, inability to disclose distress, others’ attitudes and cultural expectations. Much of the evidence has been obtained from North American populations and may not, therefore, extrapolate to the UK.

To understand the factors affecting women’s decision to seek help for perinatal distress.

Design & Setting:
Meta-synthesis of the available published qualitative evidence on UK women’s experiences of seeking help for perinatal distress.

Systematic searches were conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Databases searched were PubMed, Scopus, PsychInfo, PsychArticles, Cinahl and Academic Search Complete. Searches of grey literature and references were also conducted. Papers were eligible for inclusion if they reported qualitative data on UK women’s experiences of perinatal distress and contact with healthcare professionals. The synthesis was conducted using meta-ethnography.

Twenty-four papers were eligible for inclusion. Metasynthesis identified three main themes: identifying a problem, the influence of healthcare professionals, and stigma. These themes build upon current understanding of help seeking by identifying the need for women to be able to frame their experience, for healthcare professionals to educate women about their roles, the need for continuity of care and the way that being seen as a “bad mother” causes women to self-silence.

Perinatal care provision needs to allow for continuity of care and for staff training that facilitates awareness of factors that influence women’s help-seeking. Further research is required, particularly in relation to effective means of identifying perinatal psychological distress.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Perinatal, Psychological distress, Postnatal depression, Seeking help, Help seeking, Stigma
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education & Health
Faculty of Education & Health > Department of Adult Nursing & Paramedic Science
Faculty of Education & Health > Health & Society Research Group
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2018 00:38
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: GREAT a
Selected for GREAT 2019: None

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