A Feminist Science Commentary: A Socially Cognizant Analysis of Postpartum Depression in the Western World

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Imaan Kherani

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Abstract

In Western and Eurocentric literature, postpartum depression (PPD) has been explored through medical and psychosocial lenses highlighting the inextricable social nature of the illness experience. Using a feminist theory analysis lens, this paper urges for critical consideration of the social requirements and cultural expectations that the mother and newborn exist within. This analysis explores the medicalization of childbirth, the conception of flawless motherhood, and the perceived deviance from feminine gender scripts as prudent risk factors to consider in the development of PPD. The medicalization of childbirth is characterized with rigidity, loss of maternal agency, and an external locus of control compounded by system strain. Widespread, Western constructs of maternal perfection and excellence create a dissonance for new mothers between idealistic motherhood and experienced reality, generating low maternal esteem and isolation. Finally, depression experienced amidst motherhood has been considered deviant from the classic, Western feminine gender script, generating maternal shame and guilt. The feminist analysis of PPD lends itself towards a socially cognizant analysis that acknowledges social priorities and expectations that leave new mothers suffering in isolation.