Aim. This paper reports a qualitative study describing the process of recovery from postpartum depression in Taiwanese women. Methods. We carried out a study using grounded theory with a purposive sample of 23 postnatally depressed women in 2001-2002. The Beck Depression Inventory was used to screen for severe depression. Women with scores higher than 16 at 6 weeks after childbirth were categorized as having postpartum depression. Only two out of the 23 mothers were being treated for depression at the time. The data were analysed by constant comparative method. Findings. 'Being reborn' was the core concept that emerged from the data on the mothers' experience of going through postnatal depression, which was a process of descent into near-death insanity and eventual rebirth. Such postnatally depressed mothers often underwent four stages of coping with the loss of self or loss of former identity and attachment to their new lives as mothers. The four stages were: (1) shattered role identity, (2) feeling trapped and breaking down, (3) struggling for self-integrity and (4) regaining vitality. Conclusion. The experience of postpartum depression should be examined within the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs. These Taiwanese data can be used to develop culturally-sensitive health care. The nursing role is primarily that of reflective listening to help the women adjust to the process of being reborn - an internal process of painful growth represented by motherhood and striving to protect the real self in order to maintain emotional health while negotiating a developmental transition. Preventive interventions might include providing guidance for parenting, counselling of individual mothers, and facilitating the development of support groups.
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