Q1: Why do parents suffer from parenting fears, post-natal or parenting blues?
As with most psychological conditions, exact causes are not known. However, we can understand the reasons from biological, psychological and social cultural factors. Some individuals may be genetically vulnerable to having these conditions and there may be a family history.
After pregnancy, there is also a fluctuation in female hormones which results in a risk of post natal; blues and even depression in mothers.
Psychologically, parents may not be prepared for the stress of a new child. There may be a discrepancy between their expectations and reality and only realise that caring for a newborn may not be as easy as it seems, leading to feelings of incompetency, fear and low mood. If the newborn has a difficult temperament, parents may have an even harder time to cope resulting in further stress.
Socio-culturally, especially in present days of having one to two children and every child is precious, there can be a lot of pressure from spouse, in-laws and grandparents to be overly protective to the child and to give the child the best. Conversely, lack of support and marital dysfunction can also lead to fears and blues.
Q2: Stress and anxiety from caring for infant is often identified as the culprit for post-natal depression. To what extent is this true? How can parents adjust expectations and would that help to alleviate post-natal depression?
Stress and anxiety are definitely symptoms which may indicate that there is an increase in the possibility that the mother may be or will be having post-natal depression. It is more pertinent to address the psychosocial issues that are causing these stress and anxiety.
It is sometimes not only the parents, but also those around them and even media portrayal that leads to difficult expectations. For example, many mothers have the stress of having to breastfeed there newborn perfectly and feel guilty when they are unable to due to physical reasons. The intense guilt then leads to depression.
It will be helpful if would be parents are exposed to and educated about the potential difficulties that they may face. Most parents will give their best when caring for their child, and there is no need for perfection or comparison with others. Support and reassurance from spouse and family members are equally important.