Mothers who have postnatal depression are unlikely to have more than two children according to research carried out by Kent evolutionary anthropologists.
Until now very little has been known about how women’s future fertility is impacted by the experience of postnatal depression.
A research team from Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation collected data on the complete reproductive histories of over 300 women to measure the effect postnatal depression had on their decision to have more children. The mothers were all born in the early to mid-20th century and the majority were based in industrialised countries while raising their children.
The team concluded that postnatal depression, particularly when the first child is born, leads to lowered fertility levels. Experiencing higher levels of emotional distress in her first postnatal period decreased a woman’s likelihood of having a third child, though did not affect whether she had a second.
Furthermore, postnatal depression after both the first and the second child dissuaded women from having a third child to the same extent as if they had experienced major birth complications.
The research by Sarah Myers, Dr Oskar Burger and Dr Sarah Johns is the first research to highlight the potential role postnatal depression has on population ageing, where the median age of a country becomes older over time.
This demographic change is mostly caused by women having fewer children, and can have significant social and economic consequences. Given that postnatal depression has a prevalence rate of around 13% in industrialised countries, with emotional distress occurring in up to 63% of mothers with infants, this research suggests that investing in screening and preventative measures to ensure good maternal mental health now may reduce costs and problems associated with an aging population at a later stage.
Surrogacy laws in the UK are now over 30 years old and look increasingly out of date. Within the same timeframe, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) have significantly developed, and their place in modern society has become firmly established, both in terms of family creation and with regard to the extended medical research opportunities they provide. Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproduction, whether an arrangement requires the use of IVF, the storage of gametes of one or more parties outside of the body in a licensed setting, the use of donated gametes, or none of these. It is a legitimate form of family creation for those who have no other option to have their own child, and who exercise the choice not to adopt.
The law relating to ARTs was overhauled in 2008, but little changed in relation to surrogacy other than small and necessary extensions of the categories of people to whom a ‘parental order’ might be available. No consideration was given to the fundamental assumptions that underpin the entirety of the regulation of surrogacy. Since the law on surrogacy was created, we have also witnessed astonishing amounts of social change, not only in terms of who we consider to be ‘families’ or ‘parents’, but also in wider social acceptance of difference. In addition, the internet explosion has made surrogacy an international business, often raising both ethical and practical concerns when overseas arrangements are entered into from the UK.
This one-day event is designed to test and challenge the assumptions that underpin the existing UK law on surrogacy, showing how and why it has become out of date, in a variety of different contexts, and how it fails to protect the interests of children and families created via surrogacy. It draws upon and discusses the findings in the November 2015 report of the Surrogacy UK Working Group on Surrogacy Law Reform, along with reflections from a range of other commentators including Professor Margot Brazier and Baroness Mary Warnock, who each chaired government inquiries into surrogacy, publishing their reports in 1998 and 1984, respectively.