“If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail”
I thought of that old phrase while watching a segment of the PBS Newshour on the risk of postpartum depression among women. The featured guest on this segment was Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
…we know that 20 percent of all women will have some depression during their lifetime, and so some women actually enter pregnancy with some signs of depression.
Some may have already had a diagnosis of depression or psychological illness, and those people are at increased risk. So, picking that up early, or if you don’t know about it, helps you be careful about those parents when they become postpartum.
So, screening during pregnancy is very important. Screening postpartum is very important, and screening, you know, earlier than even six weeks.
The frequent depression among mothers (and I think that they’re talking here about U.S. mothers) is reduced to a mental health issue that should be dealt with by beefing up mental health services to individual patients based on widespread psychological screening.
There are lots of mentions of the stress of pregnancy and motherhood.
Here’s Dr. Lawrence:
Well, it’s such a stressful time. And everybody looks at pregnancy as this joyous moment.
And it is joyous, and you have a healthy mother, and you have a healthy baby. But there’s also a lot of stress. That woman’s life has changed. She feels — she’s so dedicated to her baby. And then anything that makes her feel uncomfortable, she questions herself: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it good enough?
The issue of “stress” is again reduced to a psychological problem of the patient.
But what isn’t mentioned at all are the social and political dimensions of pregnancy and childbirth.
After all, as one study after another have quickly found, the United States is one of the only countries without paid maternity leave and other support services for mothers and families.
Here’s one summary:
Recently released reports show that the U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two nations to not guarantee paid maternity leave for working mothers, while Hungary and Slovakia give 160 or more paid weeks of leave, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
There are lots of good articles to be found. Here are a few.
Paid Parental Leave: U.S. vs. The World (INFOGRAPHIC), HuffPost Parents
“Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave,” Pew Research Center.
Without the public services and support for mothers and families are routine in other developed countries, it’s no wonder that motherhood is an unusually stressful period in the United States.
It is a wonder, though, that the political aspects of motherhood were not even mentioned by the interviewer or his guest.
Ask a doctor, and he’ll tell you it’s a medical/psychiatric issue. Remember the hammer and all those nails….