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Postnatal depression seems to be a universal condition with similar rates in different countries. However, anthropologists question the cross-cultural equivalence of depression, particularly at a life stage so influenced by cultural factors.
To develop a qualitative method to explore whether postnatal depression is universally recognised, attributed and described and to enquire into people's perceptions of remedies and services for morbid states of unhappiness within the context of local services.
The study took place in 15 centres in 11 countries and drew on three groups of informants: focus groups with new mothers, interview swith fathers and grandmothers, and interviews with health professionals. Textual analysis of these three groups was conducted separately in each centre and emergent themes compared across centres.
All centres described morbid unhappiness after childbirth comparable to postnatal depression but not all saw this as an illness remediable by health interventions.
Although the findings of this study support the universality of a morbid state of unhappiness following childbirth, they also support concerns about the cross-cultural equivalence of postnatal depression as an illness requiring the intervention of health professionals; this has implications for future research.
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