Blood Test for PND
As reported in the Telegraph, doctors in the UK have developed a blood test which may be an early indicator of post natal depression. When approximately 1 in 7 new mothers suffer from post natal depression this could well be a very useful tool in identifying and supporting and treating mothers, before symptoms progress untreated.
On the one hand, I do like the idea of treating post natal depression like a disease, because I think there is a stigma around PND, anxiety, or any mental illnesses really, that depression just means you’re sad and you need to get happy, or that mental illness is a sign of weakness, or that only certain “types” of people get mental illnesses. From my own experience and going to support groups for PND, I think it’s a disease that does not discriminate. So, the idea of approaching PND as a testable and treatable disease I think to a degree removes the idea that it is a personal failure.
But for myself, I don’t believe my experience with post natal depression stemmed from anything a blood test could have identified. Jasper’s birth was traumatic for me, and when he was 11 days old he stopped breathing for a couple of minutes while at home, so I’m quite sure what I suffered from was related to traumatic events, and on top of that I didn’t have any kind of meaningful support, nobody to even just come over for coffee, let alone hold Jasper for 5 minutes so I could shower. I felt absolutely alone. I got to a very dark place before my depression and anxiety was identified. I was living in constant panic and fear that at any moment my baby would stop breathing and it would be over. I dismissed some of this as being “normal” first time mum worry, but it was so far beyond normal.
When Jasper was about 6 weeks old, after a particularly unsettled night, his father asked me “What’s wrong with him” I realise now the question was “why is he crying?” but in that moment I thought he was saying he could see that there was something WRONG with our baby too. So the next day I took him to the Children’s Health Nurse and told her there was something wrong with my baby. After a very brief chat about Jasper’s excellent weight gain and that overall he was a healthy, thriving, newborn baby, the nurse handed me a brochure for a post natal depression counsellor and support group and suggested I call that number. I actually couldn’t call the number, I didn’t know what I’d say, I actually just turned up to the support group, as the time and location was on the brochure. I can’t explain how much just knowing that what had been going on in my head wasn’t ME, that it was something else, that it wasn’t just how motherhood was going to be from now on, or that it wasn’t “normal”, how almost instant that relief was.
So, I think for this blood test while early detection, prevention and treatment are good things, and earlier the better. However, I’d hope that when implementing this, that nobody ever assumes – mothers or health care providers – that because it didn’t come up on a blood test, that it isn’t possible or that it isn’t really happening. That environmental and trauma are still considered as factors for depression or anxiety.