Childbearing, although a normal physiological
process, has never become one that is free from all
hazard, nor without major tragedies.
Improved techniques, and antibiotic drugs have
lessened the possibility of infection or obstetric
disasters. Adequate ante -natal services have made
possible the early recognition of pathological
processes, and have been the means whereby cases
libely to have special,difficulties in delivery could
be selected and given detailed care and attention, in
hospital and during labour.
It seems a pity that less progress has been made in
providing help for the psychological and social
difficulties of the childbearing woman. Much has been
written about the mental illnesses which these women
develop through lacic of such care, but little seems to
have been done from a practical point of view to
rectify the situation. The attitude towards mental
disorders associated with childbirth appears to be that
of fatalism, and obstetric almoners are encouraged to
offer reassurance and help along the lines of "this is
a normal process so there is nothing to worry about ".
If urgent social and other problems are forced upon them
by the patient, then the procedure is to deal
exclusively with the immediate problem, without
consideration of whence it arises nor what repercussions
or ramifications it may have. Nor is there any attempt
made to assess the personality of the individual
concerned so that no true idea of what the particular
difficulty means to this woman is possible.
The length of hospitalisation for those who do
- succumb, regardless of whether the process of childbirth
in. itself is considered the causal agent, or whether
it may be just one of a series of possible precipitating
factors, seems to make it worth while to do something
more active in prevention of such mental illnesses.
Surely the separation of mother and child so early
may have adverse effects on both, to say nothing of the
financial and other repercussions on the husband and
any other children of the family group. It seems
therefore essential to avoid altogether such a situation as this wherever possible.
This study was therefore undertaken in an attempt
to assess the possible factors leading to mental
illness following childbirth, and to suggest practical
means of prophylaxis.