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A meta-synthesis of women's experiences of online forums for perinatal mental illness and stigma

Moore, D., Drey, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-0752-9049 & Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 (2019). A meta-synthesis of women's experiences of online forums for perinatal mental illness and stigma. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 37(5), e19. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2019.1673570


Purpose: Perinatal mental illness affects 15% of women, however, only half of these women access treatment. Some women with untreated perinatal mental illness may continue to suffer with mental illness after the perinatal period. Evidence suggests one barrier to accessing treatment is stigma. Forums may provide an acceptable place for women to converse about the stigmatised symptoms of maternal mental illness. Reducing stigma may increase treatment uptake. This study aimed to review and synthesise the qualitative research on maternal mental illness forums and stigma, so that stigma can be addressed, and treatment improved.

Methods: A meta-synthesis was conducted to describe and interpret qualitative studies regarding forum use and maternal mental illness stigma. A systematic search of seven electronic databases and Google Scholar was performed. Additional references were collected through screening references of the identified studies. Five studies were identified that reported women’s experiences of online forums for maternal mental illness and stigma.

Results: The synthesis identified four key themes: (1) a safe place to talk; (2) virtual support; (3) stigma and identity; (4) repair of the mother identity. Stigma maybe reduced by forum discourse that reconceptualises what is to be a “good mother” and separates stigma and maternal identity.

Conclusions: This synthesis provides a novel and more detailed framework for the stigma of maternal mental illness and forum use. This suggests forums may enable women to explore their dual identity and repair their maternal identity and this may reduce stigma. Healthcare providers could discuss forum use with their clients.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology on 17 Oct 2019, available online:
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
Text - Accepted Version
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