Methods: Using a qualitative design, 11 immigrant Korean women who live in the San Francisco Bay Area in California had given birth in the past 13 months, completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screening Scale (EPDS) and participated in a semi-structured, individual, in-depth interview. Participants were married, between 22 - 44 years of age, and had been in the US between 1 – 25.5 years. Most (n = 10, 91. %) gave birth vaginally, 64 % had male infants, and 55% were breastfeeding. EPDS scores indicated 27.3% were at risk of developing PPD.
Findings: Thematic analysis of interview data revealed eight themes. Regarding challenges during the perinatal period (research question 1), participants reported biosocial challenges (e.g., sleep deprivation) (Theme 1) and contextual challenges (e.g., navigating the health care system, language barriers) (Theme 2), desire for professional caregiving help for mothers after delivery and during postpartum (Theme 3), and the importance of social support (Theme 4). For research question 2 (the perception of PPD and professional help seeking), participants reported they were awareness of the PPD concept (Theme 5), yet they normalized PPD symptoms and emphasized on personal willpower (Theme 6). They also stated that when problems (e.g., postpartum depression) arose, considering professional help would be the last resort (Theme 7), because of the stigma attached to professional help-seeking (Theme 8).
Discussion and Implications: Although Korean women identified triggers for depressive symptoms in line with women in the general population (e.g. poor social support, sleep disturbance), Korean women believed PPD would naturally heal with time and that symptoms were not severe enough to warrant help-seeking. Greater understanding of the postpartum experiences of Korean immigrant women in the U.S. and their perceptions of depression is needed to better inform social workers during the vulnerable postpartum period. Social workers working with Korean women must be knowledgeable about how depression is perceived to promote positive maternal-infant outcomes.