South African Women at Increased Risk of Postnatal Depression
What you need to know about postnatal depression in South Africa
Risk of ante- and postnatal depression in South Africa is four-times greater than the global average.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 10 % to 13 % of women experience antenatal and postnatal depression globally, while in most developing countries the condition affects 20 % of mothers. In stark contrast, more than 40 % of South African women suffer from the condition.
Shouqat Mugjenker, Group Product Manager at Pharma Dynamics, says no woman is immune to ante- or postnatal depression, but research shows that women living in low to middle-income countries are at particularly high risk. “The high burden of postnatal depression in SA is likely a result of women’s exposure to a number of risk factors, which could include poverty, intimate partner violence and the threat of HIV.”
Mugjenker also cautions, “Depression can affect new mothers in many different ways and can start a few months before birth or at any time within the first year after childbirth, and it may develop suddenly or over time. Most women feel tearful and anxious within the first few weeks after giving birth, which is completely normal and commonly referred to as the ‘baby blues’, but if feelings of sadness and low mood lasts longer than two to three weeks, it might be a sign of postnatal depression.”
“Postnatal depression puts both the mother and baby at risk since some moms could turn to smoking, drugs or alcohol to help them cope and, as a result, neglect caring for their newborns. This makes early identification and treatment essential. Suffering from postnatal depression also makes it difficult to bond with your baby, which can make babies more stress reactive and difficult to soothe. This sets in motion a dangerous cycle for both moms and babies.
“Unfortunately, postnatal depression often goes undiagnosed as symptoms, such as loss of interest in life, lack of energy, increased irritability, persistent feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness, are often dismissed or overlooked. New mothers have to deal with enormous changes that range from fluctuating hormones in their bodies to having to adjust both mentally and emotionally to the relentless demands of a new baby. Many of the symptoms of depression such as lack of sleep, reduced or increased appetite, problems concentrating and tiredness are also associated with having a new baby in the home, which makes diagnosing even more difficult,” says Mugjenker.
Additionally, several studies highlight the gap that still exist in the detection of depression in pregnant women and new mothers in South Africa. A number of screening tools have been tested in the country, but most are time-consuming and difficult to administer in busy, under-resourced maternal clinics.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has postnatal depression, contact your healthcare provider immediately, as the earlier treatment is sought, the easier the condition is to treat.
You can also contact the Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 20 50 26 to speak to trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.