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Table 2 Qualitative themes on positive and negative aspects of writing tasks

From: Feasibility and acceptability of expressive writing with postpartum women: a randomised controlled trial

Theme Illustrative quotes
Positive feelings and outcomes of expressive writing I have found this exercise really helpful. I haven’t expressed my feelings before in this way and has been quite therapeutic to have free reign on my emotions in relation to this topic. (F310)
I found writing about this experiences very helpful - as I wrote it seemed to order my thoughts and by the third writing experience I could put into words why I was feeling so bad. (G317)
I enjoyed taking part in the writing tasks I did, it helped to write it all down! (E303)
I found doing this workbook really helpful. It’s made me see a bit clearer on what’s going on in my life and day to day. I feel more positive after opening up my feelings and emotions.(J007)
I have found completing this quite liberating and it has brought about some closure to what happened to me.... I have found it useful to talk about what happened and get some clarity in my mind of how things happened.(B420)
I’ve found this so cathartic… (E662)
Negative feelings and outcomes of expressive writing Found writing about my worst experience very upsetting. (E309)
I think deliberately focusing on a stressful thing for as long as 15 mins made me more stressed than if I’d been allowed to set out my thought on it, resolve them, and move on. So I don’t think this whole exercise has so far been very helpful to me. (G178)
I found the writing tasks boring and repetitive. I hope they are helpful to others, but they certainly weren’t helpful to me, in fact they can reinforce negative feelings. (A104)
Mixed feelings and experiences of expressive writing The writing task was by its nature v. personal hence “intrusive” is rated highly - for me it was difficult hence “upsetting” - but I don’t think either of these are a ‘problem’ - that is what I knew I had signed up for! (A1083)
Although distressing it has helped, and since 1st booklet I’ve started a diary where I write how I feel. It helps to write! (C659)
It has been quite helpful to write about some of the difficulties I have had, although I found some of the writing exercises a bit repetitive. (H922)
It has helped but also made me think about the situation more than I was. (G811)
Although it’s taken me ages to complete I’ve gained a lot from it. (A139)
Positive feelings and perceived benefits of the control writing task Writing tasks really helped me focus and I sit and write now when/if I feel I’m struggling. It helps clear my head. (E845)
I definitely felt calmer and more relaxed after completing each writing exercise. It allowed me time to focus on something that wasn’t on my mind almost like a distraction. (H662)
The task helped me to focus and relax and feel a little more like my old ‘pre-baby’ self. (H998)
I have enjoyed the writing part of the exercise and have felt different after, more relaxed. (A067)
Negative feelings and perceived negatives of the control writing task I was rather disappointed to find myself in the non-intervention arm of this study. I was hoping to gain some therapy from taking part in the study as my son’s birth turned traumatic towards the end. (A772)
I did find the writing about a room part quite difficult and not an interesting topic to write about. (F250)
I found it quite tiresome and difficult to write ‘dispassionately’ for 15 mins. (E905)
Mixed feelings and experiences of the control writing task Whilst writing in the workbook distracted for a short while, I did not find it useful in terms of ‘working through’ some of my feelings. (A533)
While writing had a slightly calming effect, and has helped me to focus on something else, it has taken up time in my day where I should have rested. This has meant that my mood may have worsened due to feeling that I’ve not had any ‘down time’. (E644)
Barriers to completing the writing tasks Quite frankly finding 15 min of predictable uninterrupted peace with a little baby is very difficult. He is currently sitting on my lap and screaming as I finish this off. (A237)
Been hard to complete with two children to look after and a house to run. (E372)
I did forget about the day three task with getting caught up with looking after the three children. (B676)
I was unable to fulfil the (writing task) as it was largely a written exercise, and due to struggling with learning to be a new mother and feeling low much of the time… (E041)
...the website crashes frequently and is very slow to load. (A1117)