The Stigma of Bipolar Disorder for New Mothers: A Grounded Theory Study

This study was funded by a University of Phoenix Faculty Grant.

Nova Southern University
Walker Ladd
Presentation Date: 
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Event or Conference: 
The Qualitative Report Annual Conference
Presentation Type: 
Paper Presentation
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Location: 
United States
Abstract: 
Childbirth is an established trigger for the onset of bipolar disorders (BD) in the postpartum period, causing significant pathology and disability. Research has shown that the stigma of mental illness for new mothers is a powerful obstacle to care, preventing women from accessing critical treatment and social support. However, the majority of research has examined postpartum depression or anxiety, leaving a gap in knowledge regarding stigma and postpartum bipolar disorder. The problem addressed in this grounded theory study was the lack of knowledge regarding the stigma of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BD) in the first year postpartum. A purposive sample of 15 women given a clinical diagnosis of BD in the first year postpartum participated in one, 60-90 minute recorded interviews using semi-structured questions. 893 minutes, 275 pages of transcripts were analyzed in open, axial and selective order according to grounded theory methods. Results revealed women experienced stigmatizing stereotypes, prejudicial attitudes and discrimination from providers, employers, family, friends, strangers, and support groups. Babies and other children were not sources of stigma. As a result, stigma was assumed to be caused by a lack of understanding about BD; and the assumption “No one understands BD” was formed. However, women reported positive feelings regarding motherhood and their children. Disclosure strategies were employed to reduce risk of stigma. Increased understanding of the stigma of mental illness for new mothers creates pathways for future research and suggesting potential anti-stigma interventions and policies for providers and public health.