Finding Support: An Exploration of Postpartum Depression Internet Support Groups

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Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs among 10 to 20% of women following childbirth and affects maternal health, infant development, and familial relationships. Adequate social support and peer-based support groups offline can reduce women’s depressive symptoms and reach a broader audience than traditional clinical services. PPD Internet support groups (ISGs) may provide a simple, cost-effective way for women with limited time to garner social support and information, yet no information on social support in this context is available. This study employs a content analysis of PPD ISGs to answer the research question: What types of social support are provided in these groups? Data consisted of 1,217 discussion posts collected from three forums. Findings indicated that five dimensions of social support (informational, emotional, esteem, tangible aid, and network support) that commonly occurred offline were also provided online in a majority of the posts, with emotional and informational support being the most frequent. Forum moderators played a key role in support provision; they were proactive in reiterating that participants were not trained medical professionals and that forum users should seek out professional medical help and discuss their concerns with their physicians. Our results suggest that ISGs can provide useful resources, information, and emotional support for women with PPD, especially if they lack offline support and face constraints in accessing offline peer support. Moderated sites may provide an accessible and low-cost peer support system that is useful in conjunction with regular postpartum care to improve women’s well-being.

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Technologies and Human Usability



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In Copyright