Postpartum depression: An imperceptible issue in Africa

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a category of depression that strikes women after childbirth. It is linked with disablement in mother to child bonding, child neglect, drug abuse, self-harm, and in some cases, suicide.

Possibly, this could be one of the causes of the high women mortality rate in the world. A study shows that about 20 percent of women who suffer from postpartum depression die as a result of suicide or accidental burns.

Different experiences stand as risk factors in developing PPD. According to research, risk factors of PPD are usually genetic and can differ from one mother to another. A study done in Nigeria showed that infants that belonged to mothers suffering from PPD had stunted growth at three to six months of their lives.

postpartum depression

Another study done in Zambia showed that infants of mothers with PPD had health issues like diarrhea and intense malnutrition signs. While a study done in Ethiopia showed no implication of depressive mothers on infants.

Some common risk factors that pose threats of psychotic depression on new mothers are, the presence of an underlying illness, unplanned pregnancy, socio-economic status, marital problems, multiparity, and disappointment from not getting a desired gender. This mostly happens in Ethiopia where the preference of a male child over a female child exists.

In Africa, periods after childbirth are believed to be the happiest for a new mother. She is encouraged to be strong to nurture herself and her baby. However, concern about her mental health is not always considered. The Ugandan ‘Amikiro’ women who after giving birth, have the urge to eat their children is a case in point. The Ugandan community didn’t fully understand why this yearning for infant-eating came upon the Amikoro women.

A PPD survivor reported how she felt to the NIGERIAN HEALTH WATCH, an organization that set forth health issues in Nigeria. “I felt thoroughly deficient, I didn’t feel like I was good enough. Nobody told me I could feel this way” she says. This clearly shows that postpartum depression is an uncommon and frequently discussed issue in Africa.

Adequate support offered by close relatives, spouse, friends, and neighbors play a significant role in the functioning of the depressive new mother. A more enabling environment and a caring relationship unfold the feeling of encouragement and less suicidal thoughts. However, if left untreated, PPD can have hostile effects on the mother, which can be long-lasting and the new-born, which may lead to its eventual death.

This article was written by Yusuf Shuqrah Oluwadamilola, for

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