Mental health issues related to childbirth
- Perinatal mental health encompasses a wide variety of issues. Every woman who gives birth has a different experience, and it is important to take into account the specific experiences of all women.
- One thing that is fairly frequent however is the fact that many women struggling with their mental health is the fact that they are afraid to speak out. They are afraid to be perceived as bad parents, or that their baby will be taken away.
- We must make sure that women have access to safe environments where they can speak about their issues free of judgement.
Sexist pressure on women
- The pressure women feel around birth cannot be addressed as a single issue. This pressure needs to be understood as part of a broader system: patriarchy. Women feel pressure in many aspects of their lives: to be good mothers, to be conventionally attractive, to be sensitive, to provide care for their relatives.
- Another sound issue that can be observed in a perinatal context, and that is clearly rooted in patriarchy, is how women perceive their bodies after giving birth. Pregnancy and childbirth bring transformation to the bodies of women: weight gain, stretch marks, scars, etc.
- Society pressures women into trying to “go back” to their pre-birth body. Many women feel the need to fit into conventional standards of beauty in order to feel worthy, and perceive their inability to transform their bodies as a personal failure.
- This pressure can have terrible consequences on mental health. Studies have shown how sexism does encourage mental health issues like eating disorders.
A feminist approach to healthcare
Putting feminism on the map is also important in any discussion about healthcare. We must also talk about:
- Obstetric violence which is a normalised form of violence against women and girls (doctors who do not ask for consent nor explain what they are doing when performing invasive procedures; humiliation; disregard for women’s pain)
- Disregard for women health issues, such as period pains, which have not been taken seriously for centuries.
- Barriers of access to safe and legal abortion
- Trans people’s lack of access to hormonal medication
- And many other issues.
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