Post-Partum Depression

American media is constantly bombarding its onlookers with pictures of the perfect family. Although this idea continues to change, and is definitely not the same as it was maybe 50 years ago, it still stresses expectations of what “perfect parents” should look like and how they should behave, as if perfect is ever going to be attainable. At the same time, academic debates pop up constantly, arguing over the correct punishment/reward systems, successful education plans, and even how much a parent should play a role in helping his/her children make decisions. When the fascinating miracle of conception is discovered by a set of parents or a single mother, the pressures begin to escalate. It’s frustrating that we can’t make up our minds so easily on we would like to raise our own children because we are so concerned with the opinions of others, whether we will consciously admit it or not. We also have to be careful not to infringe on any child protective laws because losing a child to the government is one of the most painful things a well-intended parent can go through. Many expecting mothers are gifted with a book sometime during their pregnancy, titled, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” or something similar. And then finally, the baby comes along, and all of that planning must be put into action. As we all know, babies are a lot of work, and the slightest feeling of failure or disappointment or even just frustration can launch a parent into a tangled web of symptoms, what we have come to diagnose as a disorder, or post-partum depression.

I think that our society has a fairly positive take on the disorder. This is not to say that that is entirely a good thing, though. We place a high priority on keeping an eye out for the faintest symptoms and for reporting it. Expecting parents are told over and over again that it is a likely disorder to experience and that there is nothing wrong with it. While this makes diagnosis and treatment fairly simple and less stressful or embarrassing, it might have a bad effect on the number of cases. Our minds play a vital role in our well being, as we have been learning through course materials each week, and I think that the expectation of very possibly going through post-partum depression might increase the number of cases that are brought to attention. The placebo effect illustrates a very real and astonishing thing, that our minds can have actual effects on our physical well-being. Although I have no proof, I feel that I am currently experiencing a slight case of the placebo effect. I have a stomach condition, and have been prescribed a medication to help diminish the symptoms. At first, I was very reluctant in believing the doctor had prescribed me the correct thing and it didn’t help my case too much during the initial week that I started taking it. Slowly, I placed more trust in it because I wanted to feel better, and although I have not changed my dosage or any other aspect of taking it (and its reliability is not changed by time or consistency), my symptoms have almost completely subsided. Since we have been learning about the placebo effect while I have been going through this, I have started to suspect that I might be playing tricks on my body.

I worry that the placebo effect is going to have a negative effect on us eventually. If we place too much trust on medicine and treatment, will we start to put things in our bodies that we really don’t need, and could they only hurt us in the long run? Post-partum depression is  a serious disorder and deserves all the attention it is getting but I believe it is a disorder in which psychological guidance should be stressed over medication. I don’t think pills are necessary to treat something that so explicitly created in our thoughts to begin with.

1 thought on “Post-Partum Depression

  1. Medicine is redefining norms but norms have always directed medicine’s attention. Nowadays we have conflicts over cultural interpretations and medicine. I think that it is important to understand that all thoughts and feelings have bio-medically traceable neural and hormonal processes. Deviations are observations, we do not attribute illness where a condition is the norm, but only if it is culturally astray. Not long ago in western history, disease stemmed from moral failure. Diseases were believed to have come from and to create culturally deviant behaviors. While that view is not as extreme or explicit as it once was, it is still underlying in conversations of what is healthy and who is ill.

    It is a clever practice in the realm of business to take a common commodity such as coffee beans or water and commercialize or brand it. I believe that it is a fair critique to draw parallels between that business practice and healthcare’s medicalization and the brandishing of the term illness or disease onto common experiences. That was deliberately done during the 19th century to expand the scope of the medical profession into areas such as maternity and mental health; turning birth into an operation and internal voices from divine influence into a psychosis (Rosenberg). In my opinion depression is serious and that postpartum depression while may not be bio-medically well founded it is truly an experience, and that must be addressed. Maybe not by physicians but needs to be taken seriously for the sake of children and their families.

    Rosenberg, Sickness and Health in America; Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health

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