This is a fascinating, enlightening and authoritative book that would appeal to anybody interested in the reasons why women's reproductive choices - first abortion and now pregnancy and motherhood - have in recent years, been negatively linked to their mental health.
Lee explains in Chapter 1 'Reinventing the Abortion Problem', how 'Post Abortion Syndrome' came to be described and promoted by Pro Life supporters to try to guilt trip women into not having abortions because of the effect this would have on their mental health. This was a contentious and contestable argument that ultimately did not hold sway.
She contends, and I agree with her, that the psychological needs of parents are now being blurred with mental illness. Many professionals seem to regard childbirth as a threat to a mother's mental health and childrearing as hazardous to both mothers and fathers. This is borne out by the supposed prevalence of Postnatal Depression (PND). 1:10-15 women we are led to believe, suffer this in the months following delivery. Health professionals are therefore encouraged to be on the lookout for it and health visitors to screen all new mothers for it. This is despite the fact that psychiatric studies have not shown an association between depression and childbirth and there is little agreement about what PND actually is.
The chapter on PND 'Motherhood as an Ordeal' is therefore particularly interesting to health professionals like me - a nurse, former midwife and health visitor. It provides an explanation for the supposed prevalence of PND, helps to explain the escalation in diagnosis and confirms what some of us instinctively know from practice - that erroneously labelling women 'depressed' can have serious consequences. It can contribute to undermining women's self-confidence, delay them seeking out their own independent sources of support and developing coping strategies. It can also interfere in the relationship between a parent and child to the detriment of both by leading parents to believe that ongoing professional involvement is a necessary part of parenting.
I would highly recommend this book to readers and hope it gets the recognition it deserves.