Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)

First Supervisor

Dr. Suzanne Jenkins

Second Supervisor

Dr. Caroline Bulsara


With one in five Australian women suffering from perinatal anxiety and depression, there is a constant need for a greater understanding of the lived experience of motherhood. This research investigated the role and meaning of self-compassion in the lives of women in the perinatal period who experience anxiety, depression and psychological distress. There is a growing body of evidence to support findings that self-compassion is an important source of emotional and psychological well-being, but little evidence on the potential role it plays in the lives of women in the perinatal period. A qualitative approach was chosen to undertake this research and the methodology selected was Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). IPA is widely used in health psychology to gain an understanding of individuals’ lived experiences in times of developmental change; such as motherhood. Four participants were recruited for in-depth interviews to gain an understanding of their motherhood experience. The results of the study revealed an overarching Super-ordinate theme “Casting Shadows over Motherhood” and identified three major ordinate themes that had a negative impact on the experience of motherhood; emotional suffering, unmet expectations and unhelpful views of self. The themes provide an insight into the lack of self-compassion that was evident in all of the participant’s experiences of motherhood and presents an opportunity for further research into prevention and treatment, of perinatal anxiety and depression, through the use of a therapeutic model based on self-compassion.