“Halfway towards recovery”: Rehabilitating the relational self in narratives of postnatal depression

Meredith Stone, Renata Kokanovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores expositions of subjectivity in accounts of postnatal depression (PND). It examines the public narratives of 19 Australian women contributing to a health information website (healthtalkaustralia.org), collected across two Australian qualitative research studies conducted between 2011 and 2014. For the first part of the paper we analysed narrative data using a combination of phenomenological and psychoanalytic techniques. We found that postnatal distress was described in embodied, relational terms and that women depicted their distress as a pre-verbal intrusion into ‘known’ selves. We interpreted this intrusion as a doubly relational phenomenon - informed at once by a woman's encounter with her infant and her ‘body memory’ of earlier relational experiences. For the second part we examined how and why women classified this relational distress as PND. We drew on illness narrative literature and recent work on narrative identity to explore why women would want to ‘narrate PND’ – an apparently antithetical act in an environment where there is a duty to be a good (healthy) mother. We highlight the dual purpose of the public PND narration – as a means of re-establishing a socially sanctioned known self and as a relational act prompted by the heightened relationality of early maternity. Our focus on the salutary aspects of narrating PND, and its links to relational maternal subjectivities, offers a novel contribution to the current literature and a timely analysis of a largely uninterrogated sociocultural phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Australia
  • Narrative interviews
  • Phenomenology
  • Postnatal depression
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Qualitative study
  • Relational self
  • Subjectivity

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