Blimey, has it been a whole month since I posted? As ever, life (and, in this case, work) has got in the way. But I’ve been nudged out of my blogging torpor by this news, that apparently you can do a blood test that will show if you are likely to suffer from PND. According to the Telegraph piece, “The test spots two genes in DNA that may signal the onset of the condition, and could provide early warnings of the debilitating sadness, irritability, depression and loss of appetite that affect almost one in five new mothers within weeks of giving birth.”
This disturbs me for several reasons, in no particular order:
- If you test positive for these genes in pregnancy, what implications will this have for your ante and postnatal care? Will you suddenly be under surveillance from the midwife, health visiting or social work team? Although the findings might be couched with the reassurance that “extra information will help support new mothers at risk”, is there not also the possibility that professionals may try and intervene, regardless of whether the mother is actually suffering, or indeed wants the help that is on offer?
- Many women feel sad, irritable and lose their appetite within a few weeks of giving birth. For the majority, it’s part of the “baby blues” that accompany new motherhood, along with hormonal and lifestyle changes. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will develop full blown PND. I am concerned that women who might otherwise find themselves coping well after a few weeks may overreact at the first emotional dip because a test has told them they are at risk. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone? Leading to…
- Would resources not be better used dealing with those who patently do have PND? I’m all in favour of improving ante natal education and the signs to look out for, but a medical test seems somewhat extreme, especially when so many of the symptoms are circumstantial. Yes, I’m sure there are people who are predisposed to suffering from depression, but you can’t test for a baby who has colic or reflux, relationship breakdowns or financial disasters.
Much as I wish I hadn’t experienced PND after both boys were born, I’m glad this test wasn’t available at the time. Pregnancy can make you even more sensitive than usual and susceptible to “expert” advice, and it might have made me more dependent on medicalised ways of treating depression.