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Research has been done that suggests that PNI affects, as a conservative figure, 1 in 10 women of any one birth and others feel that there is evidence that shows this is only the tip of the iceberg, that the figure is nearer 1 in 7 or even 1 in 5. But nobody really knows for definite much else about PNI / PND… Well certainly not enough to answer the above questions for certain.
Much has been written about what PNI is, what the causes are, what the symptoms are, what your chances are of getting it, are you likely to get PNI again with a subsequent birth, what the trigger factors are, what helps to alleviate the symptoms; how partners, husbands, friends and relatives can help and how best to treat it.
The truth is that very little actual research has ever been done into PNI and there are no definitive answers to the questions above.
Basically… medical, psychological and other research – at least in the UK and much of the Western World – depends on the funding being made available to do it, and of course the will to do it.
Obviously funding is more likely to be available if someone can make money out of the research being done, perhaps in terms of increased sales of medication or a certain therapy. In the case of individual researchers… if they can sell their book on their research or get a better medical or other appointment on the strength of their research.
Unfortunately for us who suffer or have suffered PNI, there is very little mileage in PNI for anyone, either from the point of view of more drug sales, increased credibility or sales of a book or new therapy.
Books on PNI have a very limited audience, limited to those of us who suffer PNI, our friends and relatives and those who work with women who suffer PNI. This is because strangely and perhaps uniquely, PNI is an illness that if you suffer it – or your partner, close relative or friend suffers it – you will have a burning interest in it, often to the point of obsession and read everything you can on the subject.
But if PNI does not happen to you or anyone you love, you find people are indifferent to it and find the subject not only uninteresting, but also boring.
In addition, PNI is actually self limiting in that all women with PNI do get better; and we mostly cope with it and confine the distress of PNI within our families. We are great at hiding PNI from everyone outside our immediate families so there is no great push in society or the medical profession to find a cure or an effective therapy, to find out why it happens or what can prevent it.
Why bother to put much energy or finances into an illness that only affects us behind closed doors? As Cara Aitken says in her book Surviving Post Natal Depression, “at home no one hears you scream”.
This is, of course, false economy as PNI does have an ongoing effect on our society and on the very fabric of parenting itself, which is so vital for a successful country or nation, but this ongoing effect is hidden.
Therefore, most of what anyone says about PNI is actually just someone’s opinion, not fact… even in the case of medical professionals, including perenatal consultants.
Of course if someone is working day in day out with those with PNI, this opinion is based on constant observation and has considerable value. But most only work with women at a particular stage of PNI and with women who suffer in certain ways, so cannot speak from a holistic view of PNI.
For instance, Perinatal consultants and others who work with women in Perinatal Units and Mother and Baby Units (MBU) only know those women with PNI when they are very ill and will only meet women who have Puerperal Psychosis (PP) or who have very acute Post Natal Depression / Anxiety to the extent that they can no longer function and need hospitalsation and / or emergency treatment.
GPs and Health Visitors on the other hand deal with women who can manage at home with some support and perhaps with the help of anti-depressants.
No one is yet seeing the bigger picture and no one is doing the research that is just so necessary!
Other Research by PNI ORG UK
Below is an article we had published in The Marce Society Newsletter in 2009.
Research by Others
The Perinatal Section of The Royal College of Psychiatrists is keen to promote research into perinatal mental illness and its treatment. There are a number of practical difficulties facing researchers, not least the problem of ensuring that the the numbers studied are large enough to produce meaningful results. To this end the Section has established a Perinatal Research Network – a new email group to link researchers and clinicians across the UK and further afield. The Network will keep people informed about new studies, new results and new opportunities to help with research, via email and a regular research network newsletter.
Study into Mental Health Websites
Donna Moore, as part of her PHD in Psychology, conducted a review of Post Natal Illness Websites. Her findings can be found here.