When untreated, postpartum depression (PPD) can severely, negatively affect maternal health, child development, and the wellbeing and functioning of the entire family. Yet, despite screening and treatment programs for PPD, many women who experience depression with onset in the postpartum year do not communicate their symptoms. Negative relational experiences early in life, such as not receiving sensitive help and support when needed, often result in so-called insecure attachment styles, and there is evidence that these may contribute to the development and maintenance of PPD. However, the role of insecure attachment styles in non-help-seeking is unknown for this group. Using mixed quantitative and qualitative methodology, we identified help-seeking barriers of women who experienced depression with onset in the postpartum year but who had not sought help for their depression (N = 37), and explored links to their attachment orientations as assessed through both self-reported attachment style and narrative based attachment script assessment. The sample was non-normative regarding attachment, with an over-representation of avoidant attachment styles. Help-seeking barriers varied systematically with the mother’s adult attachment style. Specifically, convictions of a strong self and lack of trust in healthcare professionals constituted a common barrier among women with avoidant attachment styles, while unrealistic expectations about motherhood constituted a barrier for women with secure attachment styles. This new knowledge on how barriers to communicating symptoms and seeking help when suffering from PPD vary systematically with attachment orientation can help formulate individualized, and therefore more efficient, approaches to addressing non-help-seeking behavior in women who suffer in silence.
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