1 in 5 New Mothers will Experience Some Form of Depression in the Year Following the Birth of their Baby
Doha, 28 April, 2019: Global statistics indicate as many as 1 in 5 new mothers and 1 in 10 new fathers will experience some form of mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum. Statistics also indicate that over 75 percent of women who experience symptoms of a mood disorder will go undiagnosed and not receive adequate treatment and support.
Dr. Dalia Albahari, Specialist, Psychiatry, at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Mental Health Service says it is important to raise awareness about the difference between baby blues and more extreme mood disorders. She says baby blues are characterized by mood swings and feelings of sadness. She says it can be common for women to experience a low mood and to feel mildly depressed in the first week after childbirth, but she says the baby blues should not be confused with depression.
“Around 80 percent of women experience episodes of tearfulness and emotional instability in the days or weeks after they have given birth. These symptoms, which are thought to be caused by the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in the body after childbirth, generally only last a couple of days,” said Dr. Albahari.
“However, for a range of reasons, some women can develop a more serious level of depression, known as postnatal depression. If left untreated, postnatal depression may impact mother-baby bonding and can be dangerous for both the woman and her child,” added Dr. Albahari.
Dr. Albahari says World Maternal Mental Health Day, which is observed on the first Wednesday in May every year, was established to draw attention to essential mental health concerns for mothers and families. She says it is important to draw attention to this topic because depression is a treatable condition and when women seek help early, treatment can be very successful.
Women from every culture, age group, income level, and race can develop a mood and anxiety disorder during pregnancy or following delivery. Symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth. Dr. Albahari says high levels of stigma and a lack of awareness about mental illness can make it difficult for women to access mental healthcare, which is why she says it is necessary to raise awareness about postnatal depression and the importance of seeking help.
“It is often a spouse, family member, or friend who first notices that something is not right. It is important that they do not criticize but rather encourage the woman to seek professional help. Society perceives pregnancy and the delivery of a new child as happy occasions, so some mothers who experience a low mood, anxiety, irritability, or other forms of emotional difficulty feel guilt and shame about their feelings. This can lead to delays in seeking help, which underscores the importance of friend and family support,” said Dr. Albahari.
World Maternal Mental Health Day is being recognized this year on 1 May. The health awareness day draws attention to essential health concerns for mothers and families and the reality that life changes around pregnancy make women more vulnerable to mental illness.