Maternity and Mental Health: A Social Issue and Taboos

Questions about the "good or bad mother" that we are or can become are questions that constantly afflict us when conceiving a child or wanting one. Some women consider that they would be terrible mothers. After all, they have been diagnosed with a mental illness, because they are not sufficiently prepared, they do not have all the financial resources necessary to support their children, or they do not have a stable partner. And the list gets much longer...

Giuliana Brogi Sánchez

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Maternity and Taboos

The truth is that talking about mental health and maternity still seems to be taboo. Taking into account how much motherhood has been romanticized, ignoring its difficulties and complexities. Being motherhood is an experience traversed by notions such as happiness, perfection, and sacrifice. Three beliefs that take root in us since pregnancy and that become more and more acute and distressing as time goes by. The social stigma of the "bad mother" that we end up incorporating is crucial when deciding whether to be a mother or not, which also defines our way of perceiving the act of maternity.

Likewise, these stigmas and beliefs are even stronger for women who suffer from mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Women feel doubly judged by society when assuming the desire or role of being a mother amid their own emotional, psychological, and affective adversities. Which turns out to be one more reason to be singled out. Well, sometimes these women, instead of being supported and heard, are silenced and violated.

You can also read about aspects that affect the mother`s mental health

WHO calls for more guidance and attention

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that women with postpartum depression tend to feel isolated, ashamed, and uninformed. Due to the lack of guidance and attention from the medical staff. But also due to the fact that they feel guilty and absolutely responsible for their emotions and psychological situations. What is understood from the process of "instinctive naturalization" that has extended over time with respect to motherhood.

Women who have been diagnosed at some point in their lives with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc., are seen from the outside as incapable and insufficient beings. Like mentally sterile women who shouldn't even want to be mothers. Well, some women (because of their emotional or psychological situation) are directed towards coercive abortion, being seen as "problematic women" who in their condition would be incapable of caring for another human being. A phenomenon that supposes, without a doubt, systematic violence.

Mental health: emotional and ethical responsibility

Of course, mental health in the upbringing, gestation, and life of all human beings is vital. But in order for mental health to be approached from emotional and ethical responsibility, it is necessary to problematize psychiatric labels and the violence that some doctors can exercise from their position of power. Considering the fact that some doctors and health professionals reject the idea that women undergoing psychiatric treatment should stop taking medication to get pregnant (despite their wish), or even to recover libido. Without forgetting that in itself, the diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness is an impediment to pregnancy and adoption.

We must respond with a collective call to state that all women have the right to decide on their bodies and life projects. Because these stigmatizations about motherhood and mental health are the result of individualistic and positivist responsibility that completely ignores the context and the influence of circumstances and sociocultural structures. Structures that influence and condition our emotional and psychic states.

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