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.