SA women at greater risk of ante and postnatal depression

In most developing countries the condition affects 20 per cent of mothers. In South Africa more than 40 per cent of women suffer from the condition.

Shouqat Mugjenker, a mental health professional, said 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 as a result of women’s exposure to a number of risk factors, which could include poverty, intimate partner violence and the threat of HIV.”

Depression can affect new mothers in many different ways and can start a few months before giving birth or at any time within the first year after childbirth.

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.

“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,” said Mugjenkar.

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 change that range from fluctuating hormones to having to adjust both mentally and emotionally to the relentless demands of a 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.”

“If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your local clinic, GP or psychiatrist who will be able to confirm a diagnosis and advise on how best to manage the condition going forward,” added Mugjenker.

For more info on antenatal and postnatal depression call 0800 205 026, this line is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

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