World Health Day 2017: Postpartum Depression and What it Means for Our Communities
Posted: April 6, 2017
Happy World Health Day! This year’s focus is depression. You might be wondering how the maternal and child health work of Curamericas Global relates to depression, but maternal health and depression are actually closely tied. Depression impacts people of all ages, however women after childbirth are one of the three groups disproportionately affected.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Depression, as defined by the World Health Organization, is an “illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that [one] normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.” Postpartum depression is depression that occurs for a mother after childbirth. New mothers are often at risk for postpartum depression because having a baby is a major life event that can cause worry, tiredness, and sadness. Postpartum depression can also have a great effect on the health and survival of the infant. Symptoms to look out for are feeling overwhelmed, persistent crying, lack of bonding with the baby, and doubting her ability to care for herself and her baby. Depression can have devastating impacts on her family, friends, and ability to earn a livelihood. In the United States and all around the world, there is generally a stigma surrounding depression. This stigma is a barrier for people seeking help, and better understanding and support are necessary to combat postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression in Low and Middle Income Countries
While postpartum depression is fairly common, the prevalence is significantly higher in developing countries. High-income countries have about 10-15% prevalence of perinatal mental disorders, while low and middle income countries have a 10-41% prevalence of such disorders. Postpartum depression can be prevented and treated, but mental disorders are largely under-identified and under-treated in developing countries. Impacts of postpartum depression on a mother and her family are far-reaching. Infants often experience delayed psycho-social development, low birth weight, reduced breast-feeding, hampered growth, severe malnutrition, increased diarrhea, and lower compliance with immunization schedules.
Where does Curamericas come in?
Postpartum depression can be mitigated through education and support from health workers, family, and friends. At our Guatemala project site, our partners offer comprehensive care and support to prepare new mothers for the psychological and emotional aspects of childbirth and motherhood.
- Home visits: Casa Materna staff visits to the household of each mother during the pregnancy to help her prepare for the new arrival. Helping with things as simple as talking through where the baby will sleep and what dangers the mother needs to be aware of can provide a great source of comfort and stress relief for the mother. Curamericas also conducts home visits after the birth to check on the health of the mother and child and provide support to women that may be experiencing postpartum depression. Visits are held within 48 hours after the birth and continue until the child is two years old.
- Support Groups: Curamericas provides Pregnancy Support Groups that prepare women mentally and physically for childbirth. Building lasting bonds, the group provides women with a space to discuss their feelings, share experiences, and ask each other for support. After the birth, Curamericas staff offers Lactation Support Groups that provide mothers with breastfeeding guidance and support. Groups like these help mitigate a mother’s feelings of inability to provide for her child. Groups also encourage social support so mothers can ask for advice, share experiences, and stay healthy – physically and mentally!
How you can help?
If you want to help, consider donating to support our mission of Hope through Health. Your support allows us to provide essential health education services and support groups at our Guatemala project sites. Depression is far-reaching and severe, but we can do our part to combat postpartum depression in mothers around the world!
Article by Swathi Ayyagari, Curamericas Global Administrative Intern
Source: “Maternal mental health and child health and development in low and middle income countries.” World Health Organization. 2008. <http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/mmh_jan08_meeting_report.pdf?ua=1>
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