Work and social media drive pregnancy blues

Peter van der Sluijs via Wikimedia Commons 

According to research from Bristol University, “[d]epression during pregnancy is on the rise due to an increase in women in work, combined with pressure from social media,” reports The Telegraph. A new study reveals “an ‘alarming’ 50 percent rise in levels of prenatal depression in a single generation.”

There is a danger these days of labelling all manner of normal human responses to personal or social situations as mental illness and calling for government intervention – rather ironic when the care available for actual mental illness is so abysmal -- but the fact that prenatal depression is on the rise should be a cause of concern. What used to be a happy and hopeful time has been reduced to a time of worry for many women.

Contributing to this, no doubt, is a succession of pre-natal tests designed to address the “threat” of disability -- by repeatedly offering abortion -- something earlier generations did not have to face. Asking for maternity leave causes further anxiety, especially when pregnancy and childbirth are regarded as a sort of paid holiday by those who have no experience of the reality.

Post-natal depression is also a growing problem. With a dwindling number of other young mothers with whom to socialise and compare notes, a young mother can be reluctant to seek help in case she is regarded as mentally unfit and her baby is removed from her care. Time itself would resolve the depression, but they suffer in silence and are even more anxious to go back to work where at least they have the benefit of adult company.

This vicious circle suits the current zeitgeist, in which childbearing is seen as an unfortunate affliction which offends against modern notions of equality, since only women are so afflicted. Full time motherhood should be reduced to the minimum so women can get back to their “proper work”. Having been graciously allowed to spend the most trying part of their child’s life with them, they are then expected to hand them over to someone else for the remainder of their lives.

This scheme impacts negatively not only on mothers but on their children, who feel closer to their mobile phones – which are always with them -- than to their parents.

Prenatal depression in mothers has been “linked to a higher risk of emotional, behavioural and cognitive difficulties among their offspring,” according to the study. However, rather than showing that mentally unfit mothers have mentally unfit children, it is more likely to demonstrate that the same pressures are causing mental problems for parents and children. Dr Rebecca Pearson, lead researcher for the Bristol study told The Telegraph:

“Pregnancy is getting harder. We know that employment among young women has increased massively in a generation, both because they want to work, which is great, but also because they can’t afford not to. You often need two incomes to afford a house these days.  It’s increasing anxiety levels.”

Dr Pearson said that the 2012 to 2016 cohort of mothers studied were the “prime Facebook generation” who would have begun using the social media platform during adolescence, and who continue to use social media throughout their pregnancies.

We see here, surely, an indicator of a time-poor generation that finds it easier to make “friends” on the internet than in the neighbourhood. But virtual friends are not the same as real friends, who can help to share the problems as well as the joys of real life.

Dragooning all women into full-time paid work has been viewed as the key to saving the economy, but it has also been regarded by the population control movement as the key to reducing the birth rate. That this approach is working has been apparent for some time, but it has also succeeded in reducing the numbers of future consumers, thus increasing the demand for mothers to return to paid work at the earliest opportunity, regardless of their own and their children’s mental health -- another vicious circle.

But even if we pay attention only to balance sheets, there are also negative economic consequences of this approach. They can be seen in high streets up and down the country, where shops are closing because busy mothers are ordering everything they need online.

Like childcare “choices” that mean not bringing up their own children, today’s young mothers might prefer to browse the shops, looking for bargains and choosing ingredients so they can cook proper meals for their families. Instead, they settle for paying a premium for goods and services they themselves could have provided, if only they had the time -- while having a nervous breakdown into the bargain.

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).


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