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Two Ways of Living through Postpartum Depression*

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Abstract Our aim with this descriptive phenomenological study was to identify and describe the essential meaning structure in the experience of postpartum depression (PPD). We interviewed four women diagnosed with major depression and analyzed the data with Giorgi’s descriptive phenomenological method. Our analysis revealed two essential meaning structures of PPD. The first structure describes the mother as thrown into a looming, dangerous world, coupled with a restricted, heavy body that hindered her attunement to her baby. Tormented by anxiety, guilt and shame, she tried to deal with her pain by analytical reflection and social isolation. The second structure describes sudden lapses into intense feelings of alienation from the self, the baby, and from the social and material world. With a distorted primordial self-awareness, the mother no longer felt that she existed as herself in the world. We reflect on these findings using the insights of Fuchs, Van den Berg, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty.

Affiliations: 1: Telemark Hospital Skien Norway, URL:; 2: Telemark Hospital Skien Norway ; 3: University of Bergen Bergen Norway, URL:; 4: University of Bergen Bergen Norway ; 5: Oslo University Hospital - Rikshospitalet Oslo Norway, URL:; 6: Oslo University Hospital – Rikshospitalet Oslo Norway


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