Document Type



Doctor of Education


Counselor Education

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Emily Oliveira


Emily Oliveira

R. Rocco Cottone

Mary Lee Nelson

Tatjana Takševa


Becoming a mother is a significant life event that can greatly impact maternal mental health. Understanding maternal mental health is an important interdisciplinary goal because it could lead to mother’s receiving better care and support from both mental health and medical professionals. Seven first-time mothers with a baby under the age of one were interviewed for a phenomenological qualitative study, which investigated first-time mothers’ postpartum mental health experiences. This study was guided by two research questions: How do new mothers experience their postpartum mental health in comparison to how they experienced their mental health before having their baby, and how do new mothers make sense of their postpartum mental health experiences? Four themes were found using Giorgi (2009) descriptive phenomenological method in psychology as a method for data analysis to comprise the essence of the phenomenon of postpartum processing: What Just Happened?: Processing The Childbirth Experience; How Am I?: Processing Personal Well-being; How Are We?: Processing Relational Health; and What Do I Need To Do?: Processing Tasks of Motherhood. Postpartum is a time marked by increased, rapid changes in a mother’s life, each of which required processing. This study aimed to expand the conversation around maternal mental health beyond postpartum depression to be reflective of a full range of mothers’ own mental health experiences.