Study Blames Women For Being Too Focused On Their Careers For Higher Risk Of Postnatal Depression

According to a new study from Norway women who delay having a baby until they have established their careers are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. Of course, what the study is really saying is that women who wait to have a baby until they are older, and one of those reasons they wait may me be because of their careers, are more likely to have postnatal depression.

It suggested older mothers are more likely to ‘over-prepare’ for their first-born and struggle when things don’t go as planned. Research leader Silje Marie Haga, from the University of Oslo, said: ‘There are some indications that older, first-time mothers are vulnerable to postpartum depression, perhaps because they are used to being in control of their own lives: they have completed a long education and established a career before they have children. But you can’t control a baby; on the contrary, you have to be extremely flexible.” Basically, the study is saying that women who are high-powered career women in control of their careers don’t do well because a human infant isn’t as easy to predict as a spreadsheet.  

Haga went on to say that the interviews highlighted a number of risk factors apart from biological ones. “It’s not the need for control in itself, but rather the failure to achieve specific expectations that can trigger a depression,’ she said. “In contrast, women who take a more relaxed approach to motherhood with more undefined expectations cope better with unexpected challenges.” Yes, giving birth and raising a child is absolutely not going to go according to some book but to say that it is especially the Type A, career-focused women who will be disappointed because they had to get a C-section is a little bold.

A new report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project compared characteristics of U.S. mothers who gave birth in 1990 and in 2008. Among the most striking findings: mothers of newborns in all race and ethnic groups are now older than their counterparts 20 years ago. Fourteen percent of births in 2008 were to women ages 35 and older. The United States Census Bureau also found more women with a college degree are waiting to have children later in life. The bureau calls the trend a “delayer boom.”  Instead of having children in their early 20s, most women with a bachelor’s degree are choosing to wait.“Medical technology and fertility treatments have made it possible, to not only have babies, but to have healthy babies” later in life, said D’Vera Cohn, one of the report’s co-authors. “The larger trend, I think, is that Americans are achieving the traditional milestones of adult life at later ages than they used to.” People might spend more years on education, wait until they finish college to marry and then wait until they’ve established a career to have children, Cohn said. Some notable women who waited to have children include Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Madonna, JK Rowling, Annette Bening, Brooke Shields, Helen Hunt and authorHelen Fielding.

Not that there aren’t some mixed feelings (as well as more medical risk) about having children later in life, but it can’t all be blamed on careers. Bethenny Frankel does say that now that she is 41 and may not be able to have more children (she recently had a miscarriage) that it can feel like a sacrifice but she says, “I can’t really attribute that to my career because it’s just the way the whole path went. It wasn’t like I was always so focused on work. I just didn’t have the financial means.”

It is up to every woman to decide when they want to have children and how they want to approach their career. But it is usually not a woman saying “I am so focused on my career that I am choosing it over having children.” In fact, a recent Australian study showed the image of the “selfish” woman, aka “The Sex & the City stereotype,” who only wants to focus on her job and therefore looks at the idea of settling down and having children as an automatic career derailment, is false. Only 20 of the 569 Australian women surveyed by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health researchers said they did not want to have any children. It really isn’t that these women are saying I am too obsessed with my career to have children, it is more that they haven’t found the right man to have a child with that delays having a family.

Photo:  olly/


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