The pressure of being perceived as the perfect parent has become so overwhelming that it’s contributing to postnatal depression, new research has indicated.
A study conducted by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence has revealed that 49 per cent of NSW mothers who experienced perinatal depression or anxiety during pregnancy or in the year after birth “hid their true feelings from their family and friends” due to high expectations, shame and denial.
While roughly one in seven Australian mothers are believed to be affected by PNAD each year, COPE Executive Director Dr Nicole Highet said the results were indicative of the stigma and lack of awareness that persists around mothers’ mental ill-health.
“Being truly healthy during this unique period in life means a woman must look after her physical and mental wellbeing, but too often the emotional and mental health challenges experienced during this time are overlooked, misunderstood and not spoken about,” she said in a statement.
“This can evoke intense feelings of isolation and shame, and worsen feelings of stress, depression and/or anxiety.”
Australian Medical Association (AMA) president, Dr Michael Gannon, believes women have become “too competitive” when it comes to motherhood, fostering a culture of judgement and cruelty.
“I would love to see women be kinder to themselves and their peer group,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“They’re extremely competitive. I’ve talked to many women who come back from mothers’ group quite distressed and traumatised… There are examples of women being cruel to each other, like it’s some form of failure if you can’t comprehensively breastfeed your child, or if you ‘gave up’ and had a certain form of pain relief (during birth). That’s one driver of post-natal depression.”
Listen: Psychologist Kirsten Bouse talks to Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes about what post-natal depression really looks like, and strategies for coping. (Post continues below…)