"You're Not Alone": Narratives of Information Seeking and Support on Postpartum Depression in the Digital Age

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 4:30 PM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Rachel L. Constance, Walsh University
This paper explores the how women have sought out information on postpartum depression in the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Current historiography on postpartum depression in the United States focuses on the role of popular culture, particularly print media and video, in expressing and even constructing beliefs about mental health and illness. Recently, Lisa Held and Alexandra Rutherford examine portrayals of postpartum distress in the popular press in the late 20th century United States. However, little research has been done to explore how the internet age, particularly with the rising popularity of social media and the networks they facilitate, has re-shaped the way that American women understand and seek information on postpartum depression. The experience of knowledge gathering through these networks, and the way that information is presented through social media and popular sites, informs womens’ understanding of themselves, motherhood, and mental health in the contemporary era. It has also become inescapably intertwined with capitalism, as web media has become increasingly shaped by the drive for clicks and algorithms that personalize individual interests and experiences. By analyzing oral histories of womens’ digital experiences of seeking help with postpartum depression, as well as the way that popular medical and parenthood sites address the issue, this paper will determine how digital networks facilitate the construction of knowledge and how socio-cultural and economic factors affect the way women understand postpartum depression in the internet age.
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