Letter of the Day | Support our mothers, depression is real
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As Jamaicans, we are socialised to bear our own burdens, be tough and resilient. Childbearing is seen as a natural occurrence that ends once you give birth. In this season of celebrating mothers, we must reflect on one serious issue they face – post-partum depression (PPD). No one educates women on how to be a mother, yet when we hear on the news that a mother has abandoned her newborn, we judge her for it without understanding the realities. Post-partum depression is a medical condition that needs to be taught to soon-to-be moms, new moms and their partners.
PPD, according to the DSM-5 mental disorder manual, is a severe form of depression that occurs within a month after delivery. There are multiple hormonal changes that follow childbirth and which lead initially to women feeling happy, sad and overwhelmed, to the point where they cry for no apparent reason, which is known as ‘baby blues’. If this persists over a month and becomes more intense, it is classified as PPD. While this is recognised in other countries, we don’t seem to place emphasis on educating our women about this serious issue that they are exposed to after the child’s birth. Other causes of PPD include increased social pressure, such as a lack of strong support network and economic issues. If the mother or her family members have had a history of mental illness, it increases the risk of her experiencing this condition.
Women ought to be made aware that the symptoms are not much different from those that transpire after delivery – such as mood swings, difficulty sleeping and low libido – but they are not limited to them. Additional symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy as a mother, thoughts of suicide or hurting the child, and lack of interest in pleasure. Mothers need to be assured that if such thoughts are lingering, they are not to be blamed.
They should seek help. Seek help if you notice the symptoms arising. Treatment options for PPD include medication and counselling. It is necessary as well to increase your support system (friends and family who can come over), which will give you the opportunity to sleep. It is important after childbirth to take time for yourself by doing things you enjoy, not just taking care of the baby, which becomes overwhelming and stressful instead of pleasurable.
I believe that the Ministry of Health should make it mandatory at prenatal and postnatal visits to medical facilities, for mothers to be educated on the possibility of this condition becoming their reality. Additionally, upon each visit to the clinic or doctor after delivery, probing questions should be asked so symptoms can be detected, especially with the number of young ladies getting pregnant in our island. Post-partum depression is a serious medical condition, let us reach out and offer help to a new mother, so she can survive it.
Andrea Palmer Richards
Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College