Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Wendy Simonds - Chair

Second Advisor

Dawn M. Baunach

Third Advisor

Elisabeth O. Burgess


Motherhood is an ideal that is ostensibly valued and rewarded in American culture. It is no wonder, then, that a disease which threatens a woman’s ability to adequately fulfill her motherly duties receives a great deal of attention. My study aims to explore how ideas about postpartum depression (PPD) are presented in popular media through an examination of the messages and advice in PPD self-help books. Findings reveal that self-help authors make two significant assumptions: motherhood is a woman’s job that should bring happiness, and when mothers are not happy medical intervention in necessary. Through their gendered assumptions about parents’ roles and their insistence on a biological explanation for PPD, self-help authors prevent a healthy dialogue that examines patriarchal structures in the institutions of family and medicine. By focusing solely on the biological factors at play when women have babies, self-help authors alienate fathers, adoptive mothers, and foster parents who experience depression without biological origins. Only when PPD is discussed within the context of our social realities can we truly understand parenthood and depression.


Included in

Sociology Commons