Birth of a child is usually discerned as a cause of celebration and joy. However, the immediate picture is not always as rosy for the new mother. Underneath the pinks, there are baby blues!
Postpartum Depression (PPD) or “baby blues” is not a myth. It is a legit disease that demands proper medical attention and treatment. Postpartum Depression is medically defined as a non-psychotic depressive episode that could be of mild to moderate severity, and usually lasts well into the first post-natal (after delivery) year. Symptoms may encompass rage, anger, loss of appetite, confusion, mental fog, sadness, sleep disturbance, worry and inability/lack of interest in caring for herself and/or her baby.
Recent epidemiological studies report that PPD affects about 10% to 15% women in the western societies.1 Worldwide, an elaborate medical protocol is in place to identify, detect and treat signs and symptoms of PPD. Medication and treatment regimes are followed for severe cases. Moreover, support groups, and therapy sessions are designed and conducted for all new mothers to help them to crawl out of the clutches of depressive symptoms and embrace the new motherhood.
A recent study reported that the prevalence of PPD amongst Pakistani women is about 36%2, more than twice than that found in the west. Yet, this issue does not get the attention it deserves! Two pressing questions need to be answered. First, why is the prevalence of PPD so much higher in Pakistan than the west? And second, what is currently being done about it in our country?
Majority of women in our part of the world live their lives according to timelines rigidly defined by the omnipresent society. There are age brackets to complete education, tie a knot, start a family, expand the family and so on and so forth. Anyone defying such stringent rules and regulations is inevitably frowned upon.
Moreover, psychological and psychiatric disorders are social taboos that are to be swept under the rug, never to be spoken about again. A new mother is to plunge into the new phase of her life as silently and submissively as possible, and mostly, with minimal spouse and family support (because this is what has been done by her mother and grandmother previously). Any portrayal of reluctance or depressive symptoms; which worldwide would be deemed as a genuine cause for medical intervention, in our part of the world is perceived here as an excuse to evade the responsibility as a new mother, and is simply not acceptable.
Hence, the reason why PPD is more than twice as high in Pakistan as compared to the West is because it is not perceived as a real issue, a medical problem for which medical attention must be sought. And if a problem is not identified as a problem, why would then there be measures to rectify it? To answer the second question, we do not have any proper measures in place as yet to prevent, identify and treat PPD in mothers simply because PPD is not considered to be a genuine, pressing issue here.
We may choose to live in oblivion, and coerce our new mothers to live a life of depression; however, we will not be able to nip this issue in the bud. Again, PPD is real and must be addressed and must not be ignored anymore.
Maha Hameed is a dentist and Health Managemnet student. Currently, she is working for a pharmaceutical company.
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