In the second part of my blog on the current pandemic and risk of Postpartum Depression (PPD), I want to discuss some of the risk factors, especially for Indian women and what they can do to reduce their distress and the risk of postpartum depression.
To recap the last part, let us just go over some of the points I made. First of all, postpartum depression is more severe and longer lasting than normal “baby blues.”
Secondly, rates in India are very high at 22% of births compared to a global estimate of 12%. The rates are higher in the urban cities of India than in rural villages.
Thirdly, women are at increased risk for postpartum depression due to this current pandemic. Having a negative experience during pregnancy is one of the key risk factors of developing PPD after the birth.
What are some of the risk factors globally and for Indian women?
Studies have found that the number one risk factor globally, for developing PPD is low mood, depression or anxiety during pregnancy. Similarly, negative life events during pregnancy and childbirth, such as death of a loved one, loss of a relationship or financial struggles are also linked to high rates of PPD. Women who feel socially isolated have a very strong chance of developing PPD (1,2,3).
In India, the picture is quite similar but there are a few risk factors, which stand out. For example, Indian mothers are at risk of PPD if they have experienced domestic violence at home (3). With a lockdown in place, many victims of domestic violence are stuck at home with their abusers. If they are pregnant, this increases their chances of PPD greatly. Similarly, low income at home, low maternal education, improper health care and lack of adequate family support are also some of the risk factors common in India (3).
But the ones that are particularly grave for India are preterm babies, low birth weight of the baby and birth of a female child (3). These factors are especially seen in Indian women with PPD. With a pandemic situation and shortage of adequate health care and food, many women will be left to tackle their pregnancies without proper medical and social support. In some homes, the birth of a female child along with an on going global crisis may trigger severe PPD for the stigmatised mother.
What can expecting mothers do to protect themselves against anxiety and PPD?
Now, I want to outline some steps that pregnant mothers can take to protect themselves against anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
Most, importantly, hang in there Mamas! This too shall pass and you are doing great. Yes, this is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for expecting mothers. But looking at the bright side, in a few weeks or months, you will have a newborn baby in your arms and all your concerns will be forgotten instantly. That’s it from me for now.
Take care and stay safe.