• We're thrilled to announce our June Book of the Month is Matrescence by Lucy Jones

  • Bolstering her own experience with scientific research, Jones shows the huge changes going on in the maternal mind, brain and body, and asks why it is so little talked about

  • We have therapists and counsellors who see women who have had problems with pregnancy, birth and postnatal depression —  find them here

The story of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood is, for something that is so commonplace, little examined. Look past the welcome to the world Instagrams, cheery balloons, and expensive baby gear, and you can see that the actual process of becoming a mother is shrouded in secrecy.

Anyone who has ever spent any time on a labour ward will know why: birth can be long, bloody and traumatic. And that is just the first step along the road to the creation of a different being, a mother. It is life-changing, it is wonderful, but for many it is also fraught with worry and feelings of inadequacy.

Science writer Lucy Jones had imagined this stage in her life would be soft-focused and peaceful, but she slammed into a completely different experience. Telling her story alongside interviews with medical experts and academic researchers, she has written an unvarnished, straight-talking book, Matrescence: On the Metamorphosis of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood that should spark a debate about the way we prepare women for this huge upheaval. But it will also be treasured by any new mothers who ever felt blind-sided and lost in the first months with their babies.

She believes that women come into this great change with very little preparation, physically and mentally. For example, few of them know that pregnant women and new mothers are highly vulnerable to mental illness. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm in new mothers are relatively common and 40% of women with postnatal depression have never had depression before, but may go on to have it again.

“Why are we sending a high-risk group off to spend an unknown period of time at home alone, where they must look after vulnerable infants and recover from the trauma of giving birth, while burdened with loneliness, lack of sleep, and a shedload of impossible cultural expectations, including the imperative to enjoy every minute of it? Are these the actions of a responsible or functional society?”

This book is a powerful mix of information, data, advice and story-telling. I had my own children many years ago now, but I recognised much of the confusion and alienation that affects new mothers. Whatsmore, many of the trends in natural childbirth, pain relief, breast feeding and intensive parenting seemed more ideological, and less open to a woman’s choice than when I went through it myself. 

This book is a much-needed, passionate tome to help new mothers feel more comfortable about their new place in the world. If I say that I have already ordered a copy of Matrescence for my own daughter, who became a mother herself three years ago, you will know how highly I regard it.

Lucy Jones is the author of Matrescence: On the Metamorphosis of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood

Further reading

See our previous Books of the Month

What new mum need to know about mental health

How counselling helped my postnatal sex life

How EMDR helped me recover from birth trauma

7 self-care tips to manage the intensity of being a new mum