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Postpartum Depression in India

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Is Postpartum Depression in India different from the one found in the rest of the world? The answer is YES.

First, we are not even aware that such a thing exists. Even if we experience some of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression, we do not really know what it is and what to do about it. If by any chance, you gather the guts and talk about it to someone, you may be immediately judged and tagged as a 'bad mother'. Because, there is a very high probability that the person you are discussing your problems with, also has no idea about it or may have faced it and somehow managed to get out of it, but definitely does not wish to have a conversation about it, because mental illness is STILL HIGHLY STIGMATIZED IN INDIA.

Next, in a country where everyday life is a struggle, where you have to crawl in the traffic for 2 hours to reach your office, where even people living in a metropolitan die due to rains, where children are born and raised on the footpath. Do you really think that whatever shit is going on in your head really matters?

Even a person without any depression feels frustrated, angry, upset, sad, and disappointed almost every day here (just browse Twitter for an hour).

Now, when we try to spread awareness about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and even postpartum psychosis. People will be like “Are you serious? What Does Postpartum Depression mean? What are you talking about? What is this?”

And, to top it off, they will also have suggestions like “Just relax” “You are overthinking” “You need to be strong” “This is just normal, happens to every mom, stay put”

All these suggestions may lead the new mother into thinking that she is just not good enough to take care of her baby. She is not strong enough and capable enough to handle motherhood. She is just a failure and does not deserve to live anymore. Which is NOT TRUE!!!

Anyone of us can experience it. And apart from our bodily changes, there are many other reasons too for postpartum depression in India like the pressure to give birth to a son, patriarchal society, some existing super-moms in the family, and so on.

Just remember that you are the best mother your baby can ever have. Ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, as a new mother you need it and deserve it. Do not compare yourself with someone-who-does-it-all-very-well. You may not really know her reality. Just think about taking care of yourself and your baby, and do not heed unnecessary comments or suggestions.

India had the third-highest female suicide rate (14.7) in the world as per WHO estimates in 2016. And as per a 2016 study submitted by NIMHANS to the Indian Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, nearly 150 million Indians needed active medical intervention. With COVID-19 and all the lockdowns, the economic downfall, and the loss of jobs, just think about the possible number of people in need of help right now.

But to us Indians, diseases mean cancer, diabetes, heart and blood pressure problems, dengue and now the latest one covid-19 or corona. How can something you are cooking up in your head be a disease or illness? We really do not understand it. We cannot relate to it. We cannot connect to it. For a moment, let’s keep aside the common people. I think, even our healthcare system is not capable or rather not willing to deal with mental health.

A Reality Check, have you noticed all the fancy Mother-Baby hospitals popping up in our country? They offer beautiful birth packages in different money ranges, which care so much for the new mother that they even include aroma therapy in the labor room and just to keep some precious memories intact they also include things like the baby’s footprint frame, balloon decoration of the room and they even decorate your car!!!

Well, of course, the package also includes an array of doctors visiting you, lactation consultants, physiotherapists, junior doctors, senior doctors, pediatricians, gynecologists, anesthesiologists, nutritionists, and many more. The point is, that there is no mental health counselor on the list.

It’s quite clear, that even in luxurious maternity hospitals there is no consideration for the mental health of a new mother. No maternity hospital ever talks about postpartum mental health issues and maybe even ways in which we can try to prevent them.

On the contrary, on a positive front, famous personalities have come forward to talk about the mental health issues they have faced.

Deepika Padukone was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014 “90 percent of India’s population is unaware of what they’re experiencing mentally and emotionally,” she noted. “There are others who refuse to seek help due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses. Depression is like any other illness that acquires intervention. So, if you are someone who has experienced any form of mental illness, I urge you to share your story by using the hashtag #NotAshamed.”

Madhuri Dixit Nene - “Our mind makes us who we are! It’s very important to take care of our mental health. Let’s spread awareness about this and break the stigma around openly talking about mental health issues and seeking help.”

Gauri Khan and Karan Johar even made a movie with Shah Rukh Khan emphasizing the importance of mental health in it.

We have also seen a surge in the campaigns related to the awareness of mental health, especially after the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput.

Luckily, somehow, we are now at least talking about depression and maybe even accepting the fact that it is real.

You need to know that after having a baby, your body undergoes a further lot of changes. So having mood swings, feeling anxious or sad or irritated, crying, eating very less or too much, sleeping very less or too much, difficulty in bonding with baby, not feeling like talking to anyone, feeling tired and not enjoying things you used to like once, feeling hopeless or worthless or feeling guilty, feeling restless, all this is still ok and may be considered just a part of baby blues if it happens once in a while and subsides by maximum two weeks after the birth of your baby.

But even if one of these symptoms gets more intense and lasts longer than 2 weeks and interferes with your day-to-day activities then these are postpartum depression signs. Please visit a doctor and talk about it. Get help. There is no shame in it. Postpartum depression is not a weakness. It is simply a complication of giving birth. It is not even a disease, it is a disorder and if treated promptly it will just vanish away from your life, and you will truly enjoy motherhood.

P.S. This article is on postpartum depression for women who can read and even have access to the internet. The literacy rate of women in India is 59.3%. All the women who do not fall under this category may have far more severe cases which we may never know about.

I would love to hear from you, if you feel like sharing your experience, please do so in the comments below.

And if you like this article, please share it! Your clicks keep me going!

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