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Perfect parenting expectation affects mental health of parents

Outside pressures for perfect parenting affects the mental health of new parents.
Alyssa Banks, KSL Modified: August 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm •  Published: August 20, 2014
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Parenting takes on a new level of stress as "mommy bloggers" take over the Internet and Facebook becomes stocked with perfect pictures of parents with their children at the park.

Many people are aware of the postpartum depression that inevitably occurs with many new mothers. The stress of caring for a baby and embracing a new stretch-marked body is enough to break anyone down. However, Carrie Wendel-Hummell, a University of Kansas researcher, believes postpartum depression isn't the only thing new mothers, and fathers, should be concerned about. She suggests the pressures to be a perfect parent are affecting the mental health of parents.

Wendel-Hummell studied the health disorders that come with the perinatal phase of a mother's life. Perinatal is a term that defines the time before, during and after the birth of a child. During this time, parents must pay particular attention to their mental health. In Wendel-Hummell's study, she conducted interviews with 30 new mothers and 17 new fathers. Most of the interviewees were from Kansas and Missouri. Their incomes varied from low to middle class, and each candidate reported having issues with a variety of the following symptoms: postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and bi-polar disorder.

The goal of the study was to determine the cause of postpartum depression in new mothers. The former belief held that mothers changed solely because of the hormones in their body that occurred during pregnancy. However, Wendel-Hummell believes otherwise following completion of the study. Pregnancy brings change and stress to parents' lives. She suggested this as the cause of postpartum depression more so than the hormones that come with pregnancy.

According to the American Sociological Association, "Distressed mothers and fathers in the interviews generally voiced concerns about social problems, including cultural expectations of parenting, relationship stress, family-work balance issues, and struggles with poverty."

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