The Fifty Minute Hour

Thoughts on therapy and life

A test for post natal depression.

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Post Natal DepressionI’ve been reading news that Warwick University has developed a test to identify susceptibility to post natal depression (PND) which they think could be widely in use within 5 years.

The test would be given in early pregnancy and one can only hope that those delivering the results will choose not to use the researchers description of “faulty genes” as the reason for the woman having a higher risk factor.

Not surprisingly this highly medicalised description of a difficult emotional state of being, was given by the research team’s male leader, and it got me thinking about what it would be like to be told, shortly after celebrating news of a  pregnancy, that you were likely to suffer from PND?  Guilt and worry were my initial thoughts, neither of which are helpful for mother or child as the pregnancy progresses.

Pregnant women are already bombarded with messages about the “right” way to give birth, , the “right” way to feed (breast) and god knows how many “right” ways to look after baby once they get home.  Adding the need to resist an increased susceptibility to PND just increases the reasons a pregnant woman or new mum has to feel bad about herself.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that early awareness of PND is a bad thing, but I’m saddened by the idea that we need a blood test to tell us that a woman is susceptible.  Is it unrealistic to hope that even in situations where a mother is alone and unsupported by a relationship, that Midwives, GPs and Health Visitors could provide the sort of wrap around care that not only spots the signs, but makes a mother feel safe enough to share her feelings?

Sadly I think with such services stretched to extremes, it seems post natal support is about identifying the “at-risk” parents and children and focusing resources in a way that hopefully avoids a disaster further down the line. The thinking I guess is that a middle class, educated woman, bringing a child into a loving relationship might not need professional support in the same way. However, I think it is often exactly this woman who knows that she is not supposed to create a fuss and who is used to getting things right, who finds herself floored by the fact that she is struggling with motherhood.

And of course, what a blood test in pregnancy cannot account for is the aftermath of a traumatic birth, which is also a major factor in PND.

Real human contact and unconditional support are essential in identifying and helping mothers with PND; I wonder if a positive result from the blood test means that this will be forthcoming? Sadly I suspect not.

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Author: Johanna Sartori BA MBACP Accred.

Finding my way through life, and travelling with those on the same journey

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