Cheryl Tatano Beck’s Theory

Cheryl Tatano Beck’s Theory Free Essay

Theory serves as the basis of nursing and is highly important for the profession. Nursing uses a conceptual ground for the guidance of practice using the prediction and description of a particular behavior. Many theories are essential to nursing, and Cheryl Tatano Beck’s theory on postpartum depression is one of them. For more than 20 years, the theorist focused on the study of postpartum anxiety and disorder and later developed a theory on postpartum depression called Teetering on the Edge. This theory is an appropriate instrument for providers – nurses, midwives, and maternity teachers – for the improvement of care for pregnant and postpartum women (Marsh, 2013). Providers interacting with these patients should be very sedulous to recognize the symptoms and signs of postpartum depression. In addition, they should adequately train pregnant and postpartum women to help them recognize the symptoms on their own (Marsh, 2013). In addition to physical changes, every woman experiences great psychological changes connected with a new lifestyle that can lead to postpartum depression, and, therefore, women should know the symptoms of this state and not be afraid to ask for help. Postpartum depression is a highly dangerous condition that has negative consequences for a woman and a newborn. Cheryl Tatano Beck has become one of the first theorists who studied this condition. Her four-step theory on postpartum depression has become a starting point for the further study of this condition, allowing women to receive proper treatment.

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Postpartum Depression

The postpartum period is regarded as a highly dangerous period in the life of every woman. During this period, the body is subjected to different physical changes to return to the condition before the pregnancy (Chou, 2017). Pregnancy, childbirth, and the appearance of a baby lead to numerous practical problems for a woman (Mollard, 2014). Frequently, women have intermittent sleep and physical fatigue; they can be anxious about the well-being of the baby (Chou, 2017). Women can experience different mood disorders shortly after childbirth. They can suffer postpartum psychosis, which represents a very severe condition requiring hospitalization, or postpartum blues, a disorder lasting for several weeks and not requiring specific treatment (Chou, 2017). In general, postpartum depression unites various psychological conditions in women after childbirth. Postpartum depression can be described as a thief that deprives women of precious time with newborns they dreamed about during pregnancy (Beck, 2001). About 15% of women experience this state (Chou, 2014). In such a way, it is a comparatively frequent condition among women.

Postpartum depression is characterized by a variety of symptoms. They include excessive crying, mood swings, feelings of inadequacy, and suicidal thoughts (Chou, 2017). Postpartum depression usually develops insensibly over six months (Chou, 2017). This state has an extremely negative impact on women. Postpartum depression can have an impact on relations between a mother and her child, deteriorating the emotional and cognitive development of the newborn (Beck, 2001). Therefore, it is a dangerous condition, and all women should know its symptoms and consequences. These days, there are many studies dedicated to postpartum depression and Cheryl Tatano Beck has become one of the first theorists who researched this condition.

Background of the Theorist and the Theory

Cheryl Tatano Beck is an American theorist and nurse that made a significant contribution to the development of nursing. She started conducting research on postpartum depression in 1982; at that time, she wrote two articles (Lasiuk & Ferguso, 2005). In the first article, she discussed the importance of role conflict and studied shiftlessness to depression. In the second article, Cheryl Beck tried to find a connection between alterations in time sensibility and depression (Lasiuk & Ferguso, 2005). Later, she started distinguishing the concepts of maternity blues, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum depression. In 1992, the theorist published research on postpartum depression (Lasiuk & Ferguso, 2005). For this research, Beck interviewed women who attended a support group. After the interview, the theorist formulated 11 themes explaining the basic framework of postpartum depression (Lasiuk & Ferguso, 2005). They include emptiness in life, loneliness, obsessive thoughts, constant guilt, fear, psychic haze, uncontrollable anxiety, the feeling of insecurity, uncontrollable emotions, automatic movements, and contemplation of death (Lasiuk & Ferguso, 2005). For example, many women mentioned that they felt like robots when taking care of their babies (Beck, 2013). To live through this state, a woman separates herself from her baby (Beck, 2013). Later, Cheryl Beck expanded these themes into the theory of Teetering on the Edge.

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Discussion of the Theory

Cheryl Beck’s theory represents a widely developed four-step theory about postpartum depression. The stages include the clash with terror, dying of self, the struggle for survival, and restoration of control (Mollard, 2014). The clash with terror is associated with obsessive thinking, serious anxiety, and the feeling of haziness. Dying of self involves the feeling of isolation and unreality; additionally, a woman frequently has an uncontrollable desire to hurt herself (Mollard, 2014). The next step is the struggle for survival when a woman who has psychological problems after childbirth and experiences difficulties in treatment finds comfort in prayer or support groups. For example, many women feel reassured after praying (Munhall, 2012). The last step is regaining control, when a woman experiences improvement and restores her state, feeling that she has missed much time because of her condition and worrying that she will again have depression in the future (Mollard, 2014). Such phasing helps treat postpartum depression, preventing a further progression of this state. The search for social support can prevent a woman from closure in case she experiences initial broken maternal role anticipations (Mollard, 2014). A woman can considerably benefit from a support group. In turn, a woman who has moved to other steps requires more intense intervention (Mollard, 2014). It is obvious that every case of postpartum depression is unique; however, the comprehension of the fact that this condition comprises four steps suggests important recommendations in terms of treating a woman. The only limitation of this theory consists in the fact that it is unclear what step will a woman have if there is a remission of postpartum depression. Thus, further study on this issue is necessary.

Predictors of Postpartum Depression

Cheryl Beck conducted several meta-analyses and one of them is dedicated to predictors of postpartum depression. In the first meta-analysis, the theorist identified nine predictors (Chou, 2017). Later, she found four additional predictors of postpartum depression. The initial nine predictors include prenatal depression, prenatal anxiety, stress for children, life stress, matrimonial relationships, social support, the history of previous depression, maternal blues, and the child’s temperament (Chou, 2017). Certain predictors, for example, prenatal anxiety, prenatal depression, history of previous depression, and stress are connected with the level of a woman’s stress and anxiety before the birth of the child (Chou, 2017). Some of the factors, including maternity blues, child temperament, and social support, are associated with the postpartum experiences of women after childbirth. In the updated study, the theorist found four new predictors –single marriage, low self-esteem, unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and low socioeconomic status (Chou, 2017). In general, thirteen predictors are connected with demographic variables, social interactions, the physical and mental health of a woman before childbirth, and life experiences after it. Women who experience one or more of these predictors more frequently than others have postpartum depression.

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Therefore, predictors mentioned in the meta-analysis are of the greatest importance for the further study of postpartum depression and its treatment. The theorist concluded that since two factors, socioeconomic and marital status, represent demographic variables, a potential profile of a woman who is prone to postpartum depression can be described (Chou, 2017). Such a profile comprises a single woman with a low income (Chou, 2017). In conclusion of the meta-analysis, Cheryl Beck recommends therapists use all thirteen predictors to determine a woman who may have the risk of developing postpartum depression. When a therapist determines predictors typical for a particular woman, certain interventions are necessary to treat postpartum depression (Chou, 2017). When the meta-analysis was published, it became the beginning of the further study on diagnostic tools and preventive methods related to postpartum depression.


The four-step theory on postpartum depression proposed by Cheryl Tatano Beck has become a starting point for the further study of this condition, allowing women to receive proper treatment. Teetering on the Edge is a theory that describes four steps that a woman with postpartum depression passes. With the help of these steps, it is possible to prescribe necessary treatment that helps prevent possible complications. In addition to this theory, Cheryl Beck conducted several meta-analyses providing a greater understanding of postpartum depression. In an updated meta-analysis, the theorist described thirteen predictors of the condition. According to it, if a woman has one or more of these predictors, she is likely to have postpartum depression. In general, Cheryl Beck’s research is extremely useful for the further study of postpartum depression, its symptoms, and its consequences.

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