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Postnatal depression in India: why so many women are suffering without support

We need greater awareness of the mental health issues that can affect new mothers so we can help them recover

Postnatal depression in India: why so many women are suffering without support

We need greater awareness of the mental health issues that can affect new mothers so we can help them recover

Postnatal depression in India: why so many women are suffering without support

We need greater awareness of the mental health issues that can affect new mothers so we can help them recover

Postnatal depression in India: why so many women are suffering without support

We need greater awareness of the mental health issues that can affect new mothers so we can help them recover

One in five Indian women experiences postnatal depression. It’s time to break the taboo on discussing mental health.

Postnatal depression is relatively common. Globally, it affects around 15% of mothers. In India, it’s even more prevalent, at around 20%. Yet it’s hardly mentioned: we don’t talk about mental health, and we don’t talk about “women’s problems” — and postnatal depression falls into both categories.

Postnatal depression isn’t the same as the “baby blues” that most women experience soon after giving birth, the mood swings and anxiety that generally last for at most a couple of weeks. Postnatal depression also develops soon after the birth, but with more intense and longer-lasting symptoms: melancholy, mood swings, withdrawing from friends and family, difficulty bonding with the new baby, low energy, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

It's not a character flaw or a moral failing. It’s simply an illness, and something that can affect any new mother.

Depression is difficult to cope with in any situation, but particularly when you have to deal with looking after a baby and all the changes that can bring with it. And particularly when people around you expect you to be the joyful, glowing new mother. It can feel shameful to admit you’re feeling bad at the moment you’re supposed to be happiest. And, if you’ve never heard about postnatal depression, you may be terrified that there’s something wrong with you.

But the real problem is that we’re not talking about it. We need to accept that it happens, and that mothers who experience it need support, understanding, and – in some cases – medical help.

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