A case study for helping to prevent postnatal depression : towards a cultural tool for Maori women : a thesis presented for the Masters degree of Philosophy, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Postnatal depression is a depressive illness that affects 10-20% of all women. However, in societies with strong kin-based support structures and where customs and rituals are integral to everyday life, there is a very low incidence of postnatal depression. Indeed, there is little mention of depression in pregnancy and motherhood within traditional Maori society. Today, through the impact of colonisation, Maori women live in a very different world to that of their ancestors. The dissolution of the whanau structure, the loss of Te Reo and customs, the increase of solo-parent families and families living in poverty, the effects of drug and alcohol abuse and the increase in family violence mean that Maori women are more likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety based illness than non-Maori. Despite this statistic, there has been very little research conducted around Maori women and maternal mental health. This research attempts to identify the key issues that affect Maori women during pregnancy and motherhood and which impact on their maternal mental health. It also provides a critical analysis of the efficacy of current maternal mental health services, treatment and tools in meeting the needs of Maori women. Finally, these insights provide the basis for recommendations to improve maternal mental health services for Maori women and principles to guide the development of a tool to help prevent postnatal depression in Maori women. Ultimately this research is about realigning our thinking about working with Maori women and maternal health. The focus is on providing services, tools and an environment that is collaborative and draws on a range of resources to help Maori mothers succeed in all areas of their life, validating the use of cultural rituals, customs and practices within service provision. There is also a need to conduct research that recognises the diverse circumstances and needs of Maori women and that draws on Kaupapa Maori epistemology and paradigms to inform the research. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this research clearly illustrates the importance of strong whanau structures and systems and the need to provide a society that allows Maori women to benefit from the support of friends and family, regardless of how that 'whanau' is defined.
Postpartum depression, Maori women, Māori Masters Thesis