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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 00:34 GMT
Experts attack baby blues 'myth'
Mother and baby
Dr Lee says 'medicalising' mums robs them of confidence
Too many new mothers are wrongly labelled as having postnatal depression, researchers have claimed.

They are set to tell a conference in London this weekend that the estimate that a fifth of new mums suffer depression is "wrong".

They believe health professionals waste time looking for signs of illness.

Sociologist Ellie Lee said: "This new trend to label parenting a threat to mental health risks branding an essential part of life a hazard."

Parents are being encouraged not to cope
Dr Ellie Lee
She added: "Mothers aren't mad or sad."

Dr Lee, who wrote 'Abortion, Motherhood, and Mental Health' will attack what she sees as the "current cultural obsession" with postnatal depression at a seminar at the Institute of Ideas on Sunday.

She believes modern mothers are no different to those of previous generations - strong, resilient and well-equipped to cope.

'Constructing a problem'

Dr Lee said "medicalising" parenting may rob mothers of self-confidence and label motherhood itself a problem.

"Culture has developed an inexorable tendency to medicalise and make everyday experience difficult.

"There is every possibility that, through doing so, parents will come to experience the normal disruption that parenting beings with it, as highly disabling, and find themselves less able to manage.

"This is not about the recognition of an existing problem but the construction of a new one. Parents are being encouraged not to cope."

Brid Hehir, a former health visitor who will also speak at the seminar, added: "The belief that 10-15% of women will suffer postnatal depression after the birth of a baby is now widespread, but false in my estimation.

"Health care professionals, midwives, health visitors and GPs in particular, are wasting scarce NHS resources searching out postnatal depression in women (and men) when evidence for the existence of this as a condition peculiar to the post-natal period does not exist."

She added: "In my experience labelling women 'depressed' does nobody any favours.

"It encourages women to feel vulnerable and generates unnecessary work for already busy health professionals."

But Diane Nehme from the Association for Postnatal depression said: "The everyday traumas of motherhood are not comparable with postnatal depression.

"We estimate that around 15 to 17% of mothers do suffer from depression."

Baby blues link to bad behaviour
04 Nov 03  |  Health
Test for post natal depression
16 Mar 04  |  Health

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