Disabling Mothers: Creating a Different Discourse for Postpartum Depression
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Women have historically been direct targets for psychiatric “disordering” for a variety of well documented reasons that include their biology as well as their socially and culturally constructed gender roles. Depression and anxiety disorders, for example, have been reported to be far more prevalent among women compared to men. Compelling evidence continues to expose how “disorders” are fabricated and to some extent created by their “treatments.” Depression with its criteria for postpartum onset is no exception. Concern for women caught in this particular therapeutic moment – their suffering must be seen as very real – cannot overshadow the need to critique the machinery that both creates “disorder” while at the same time offers “magic bullets” as relief or cure for the illnesses it has manufactured. Many “disorders” would not exist but for the untenable social, economic, and political climates in which people are forced to live their lives; women suffering from postpartum depression is no exception. Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry have been able to capitalize on women’s pained responses through pathologizing moods, feelings and behaviours that might otherwise be seen as appropriate ways to react to motherhood in these difficult situations. This paper will interrogate the psychiatric and epidemiological history and resulting discourses surrounding postpartum depression. By turning attention away from psychiatrically “disabling” mothers towards a focus on normalizing “depressed” responses to early motherhood, this paper will propose alternative strategies for navigating the difficult times surrounding the challenges facing new mothers.