Coping Strategies as a Manifestation of Resilience in the Face of Postpartum Depression: Experiences of Women in Northern Ontario

By Arshi Shaikh and Carol Kauppi.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the last decade, a growing body of research on resilience among women has emerged in the disciplines of social work, nursing, psychology and sociology. Myriad conceptualizations of resilience may be found within the research literature. One such conceptualization equates resilience with coping strategies leading to successful adaptation or positive outcomes under stressful or adverse circumstances. Among women, resilience has largely been studied in the context of physical and mental health issues, violence, abuse, poverty, immigration and geographic isolation. An extensive review of the literature has revealed that there is limited research on resilience among women who experience postpartum depression (PPD) in the underserviced communities of Northern Ontario. The current study addresses this knowledge gap by exploring coping strategies as a manifestation of resilience among women in the City of Greater Sudbury who are experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

Utilizing purposive sampling techniques, women were recruited from the Perinatal Mental Health Program of Sudbury Regional Hospital and various community agencies (e.g., mental health, parenting and peer supports and health services). The women were included in the study if they met key criteria such as (i) being 18 years or above, (ii) having experienced depression within one year after the birth of a live infant or within the previous five years, and (iii) being able to recall and articulate conscious experiences of resilience in the English language. The women were invited to take part in individual semi-structured interviews which were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. The interview guide encompassed demographic details, experiences of PPD and coping strategies.

This paper presents major themes delineating the coping strategies as a manifestation of resilience among twelve women experiencing PPD while living in an underserviced community within Northern Ontario. The findings are interpreted in the light of an eclectic theoretical framework consisting of Frankl’s meaning-making existential philosophy, Miller’s cultural-relational theory, and key principles of feminist standpoint theory. Coping strategies congruent with this theoretical framework include making meaning of one’s suffering (e.g., being philosophical about PPD, connecting with God, accepting the reality of motherhood), seeking support (e.g., sharing motherhood responsibilities, accessing services), nurturing oneself (e.g., participating in professional and recreational activities, developing positive outlook), and advocacy work (e.g., bringing awareness about PPD, providing support to other women). Other strategies such as connecting with and deriving strength from nature go beyond the assumptions of the theoretical framework. The findings have implications for the development of strengths-based interventions for women experiencing PPD.

Keywords: Resilience, Coping, Postpartum Depression

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.261-274. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 958.847KB).

Dr. Arshi Shaikh

PhD Candidate, School of Rural and Northern Health, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Arshi Shaikh is currently enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Rural and Northern Health PhD Program at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests include women’s mental health issues (e.g., postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), psychosocial determinants of mental health, and mental health program evaluation. Arshi Shaikh's PhD dissertation is a qualitative study about resliience among women who exprience postpartum depression and their supporting others in the northern communities of Ontario, Canada. This study is supported by the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral Award from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dr. Carol Kauppi

Professor, School of Social Work, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Carol Kauppi is Professor of Social Work and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests have focussed in recent years mainly on girlhood, adolescence, motherhood and homelessness in northern communities. Professor Kauppi is also the Director of a five-year research project dealing with homelessness and migration in northern Ontario. She has published many articles and reports dealing with homelessness and housing, racism, family issues, young mothers, parenting including postpartum depression, and child and family poverty in Sudbury and northern Ontario. Between 2003 and 2008, she completed a multi-year, province-wide and national project on girlhood. As part of this project she co-edited and published an anthology of girls’ creative writing and art entitled girlSpoken: from pen, brush and tongue as well as a facilitator’s guide for teachers and service providers. The girlSpoken book has received an award from the Amelia Bloomer Project which is sponsored by the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.

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