Health Editor Madeleine Brindley asks whether society and the media are putting too much pressure on pregnant women to become perfect mothers
CHILDBIRTH may be the most natural event in the world but that doesn’t mean being a mother – or indeed a father – comes naturally.
Pregnancy is no longer a private event; over the past 20 years it has increasingly become a public event.
As women have been steadily carving out a presence in the public sphere and are no longer confined purely to the domestic, a once male-dominated society has been forced to consider and give prominence to traditionally female issues of pregnancy, child birth and child rearing.
We have seen advances in maternity – and paternity – leave and large strides have been made in combating workplace and professional discrimination against pregnant women.
But with this attention comes expectation and pressure: pressure on women to excel as mothers and as workers and to juggle the demands of both their personal and professional lives.
The emergence firstly of superwoman, followed more recently by the yummy mummy has led to a shift in the common perception of childbirth from an incredibly painful and long event to an almost blissful experience in which children are born quickly and easily with the minimum of problems and discomfort.
Giving birth has become a minor event and motherhood in no way derails a woman from her chosen career.
Elaine Hanzak believes that this constant pressure on women to be perfect mothers and superwomen has led to most new mothers experiencing postnatal depression “in some shape or form”.
Postnatal depression covers a broad range of conditions from the so-called “baby blues” to the severe and life-threatening puerperal psychosis.
Official figures quoted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists would suggest one in 10 mothers suffer from postnatal depression but a survey last year for website netmums found that 54% of mothers said their mental health suffered after giving birth.
Ms Hanzak, who experienced postnatal depression firsthand following the birth of her son Dominic, said: “As a society we have lost the cherish-ness of pregnancy – with so many mothers working today, it has almost become a status symbol to keep working literally to the point when you drop.
“And as soon as women have given birth the expectation is that within 10 minutes she should be back in her size eight jeans, rustling up a meal…
Monday, March 8, 2010
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