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Blue Babies! - focusing on the mental health of pregnant mothers

Along with physical, social well-being, there is a dire need to address the mental health challenges women face during or after pregnancy.

Photo of Dr. Sara Saeed Khurrum
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Baby blues, commonly known as postpartum depression (PPD), is a widespread disorder in most women associated with childbirth. 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. The number continues to soar in developing countries like Pakistan where the prevalence rate ranges from 28 percent to 63 percent, placing it among the highest in Asia. 

Source: Science Direct

A woman who goes through PPD faces cultural, social and sometimes financial barrier and stigmatization that limits her chances to get access to quality treatment in the form of psychological centers or rehabilitation services. If ignored, PPT can turn into a major chronic depression in women. It affects not only the mothers’ health but the long-term developmental care of their child. 

I had the opportunity to interview Ayesha, a 33-year-old mother of two sons, residing in rural Pakistan. The challenges she shared as a mother were numerous. Along with financial problems, Ayesha had a hard time adjusting her new life with her in-laws while also taking caring of her child. Having had to go through 3 miscarriages after her first baby was born, she became a victim of PPD where she used to experience anxiety, excessive crying, and sleepless nights for two long years. In her very own words: "Imagine a young mother who just gave birth to her first child battling depression, having no idea how to overcome this issue and while her mental health deteriorates, her physical well-being is also badly affected. In such a condition, the care and love that she can bestow to her whole family are suddenly missing from her side." Her depression also resulted in her being hypertension and having diagnosed with Diabetes mellitus. Often times when her young son would cry at nights and would wake her up, the mental stress would cause her to not treat him with affection and she would withdraw from him. 

To overcome this challenge, we at Sehat Kahani [Story of Health], an organization based in Pakistan, aim to deploy a human-centric program focused on addressing the mental well-being of mothers, who go through traumatic thoughts after their pregnancy. In addition, we aim to build the capacity of obstetric-gynecologic providers for early recognition of PPD signs. 

A new mother receiving an online tele-psychotherapy session at Sehat [Health] center based in rural Pakistan.

For expecting mothers we aim to deploy a telehealth application that provides them psychotherapy and opportunities to be included in the support network of mothers with PPD and anxiety from all over the World. For the capacity building of obstetric-gynecologic providers, we aim to deploy an online blended learning program to equip them with effective tools and training to screen and manage postpartum depression timely.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we seek advocacy from people around us to bring about a positive change in the lives of those mothers who undergo postpartum mental diseases? How might we make it prevalent in a conservative society that mental health is equally as imperative to physical health?

How does this research relate to our use cases and personas?

It falls under the two personas namely; The Under-Resourced Mom and The Mother Suffering from Chronic Disease. This research can help to provide an insight to the mental well-being of the mothers around the world, especially in the developing countries.

Tell us about yourself:

I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Sehat Kahani. I have a healthy impatience. I cannot sit back and wait for change to happen – I am a change driver and believes in turning a dream into reality!

Are you currently an employee of Sutter Health or UCB Pharmaceuticals?

  • No

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Photo of Kate

Hi Dr. Sara Saeed Khurrum !

There is 1 week left to submit ideas to the New Life Challenge. It would be great to see you and your ideas there.

The deadline for idea submission is Sunday at 3 pm PST on September 24.

Please email me if you have any questions - krushton@ideo.com

Photo of Dr. Sara Saeed

Hi Kate!
Looking forward to submitting our entry on this new challenge as well and hoping for the best!

Thank you for checking in:)

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