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New Years Ideas for Tackling Antenatal Depression


Over the festive period, I read in a popular newspaper the not so festive news that an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with depression during pregnancy. It was interesting to read the explanations for this provided by the various interested parties whom the journalist consulted.

According to the NCT, the problem lies with women’s employers who are unsympathetic to the needs of pregnant women, and place pressure on women to continue to work until shortly before their due date. The Royal College of Midwives felt that responsibility for poor pregnancy mental health is the result of women being bombarded with (conflicting) advice, and of the increase in the use of ultrasound scans which give rise to anxiety. The campaign group, Maternal Mental Health Alliance, observed that there is probably a real increase in the number of pregnant women experiencing antenatal depression and anxiety, but also an increase in the reporting of these conditions.

The article concluded that ‘some’ women don’t get the help they need.

It seems to me that all three commentators offer useful insights, but that we remain short of solutions. My own feeling would be that there is a lack of peer group support for pregnant women, that is, of opportunities for women to meet each other, share their experiences and discover that what they are worrying about during their pregnancies are the same issues that concern most other pregnant women. As Michel Odent did in Pithiviers, I would like to see antenatal clinics providing both medical supervision and peer-group support. Instead of sitting for one (or two or three) hours in a waiting room, alongside but not in conversation with other anxious pregnant women, wouldn’t it be great to have a room where comfortable chairs were arranged in circles, where there was a ready supply of hot and cold beverages, and where there was a midwife to welcome people, introduce them to each other, and perhaps get a discussion going?

There would also be a relaxation session running every 30 minutes so that women could enjoy developing skills that might well contribute to reducing their anxiety levels during pregnancy, during labour and after the birth.

And there would be a masseuse available to provide 10 minute hand or foot massages using calming aromatherapy oils.

Following their scan, women could return to the drop-in room and debrief, assured of willing listeners among the other women.

I suppose this is cloud cuckoo land ……. but wouldn’t it make a difference?

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