Social Support During the Postpartum Period: Mothers’ Views on Needs, Expectations, and Mobilization of Support
Research has indicated that social support is a major buffer of postpartum depression. Yet little is known concerning women’s perceptions on social support during the postpartum period. The objective of this study was to explore postpartum women’s views and experiences with social support following childbirth. Four focus groups were conducted with an ethnically diverse sample of women (n = 33) in a large urban teaching hospital in New York City. Participants had completed participation in a postpartum depression randomized trial and were 6–12 months postpartum. Data transcripts were reviewed and analyzed for themes. The main themes identified in the focus group discussions were mother’s major needs and challenges postpartum, social support expectations and providers of support, how mothers mobilize support, and barriers to mobilizing support. Women across all groups identified receipt of instrumental support as essential to their physical and emotional recovery. Support from partners and families was expected and many women believed this support should be provided without asking. Racial/ethnic differences existed in the way women from different groups mobilized support from their support networks. Instrumental support plays a significant role in meeting women’s basic needs during the postpartum period. In addition, women’s expectations surrounding support can have an impact on their ability to mobilize support among their social networks. The results of this study suggest that identifying support needs and expectations of new mothers is important for mothers’ recovery after childbirth. Future postpartum depression prevention efforts should integrate a strong focus on social support.