Postpartum depression: It’s bigger than you think, but not as known

The “Climb Out of Darkness” event this Saturday will raise awareness for postpartum depression. Will you join us? 

This fall I will be spending four months in northern Ghana, with plans to research postpartum depression among rural women. Postpartum depression is the intersection of maternal and mental health—two subjects I am particularly passionate about.

Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression that some women experience after giving birth. It  is “one of the silent contributors to the poor maternal and child health indices in rural areas of developing countries,” says a study in the Midwifery journal. This is why this issue urgently needs to be brought out of the darkness—not just in the United States, but around the globe.

I was thrilled to learn that our partner, Postpartum Progress has created an event called “Climb out of Darkness,” in which women across the globe will climb mountains and hike trails to represent the “symbolic rise out of the darkness and into the light of hope and recovery.” The event—the largest in the world for raising awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders—will take place this week on June 21st.

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But how big of a deal is postpartum depression? And what should you know about it? Here’s a list of some interesting facts: 

1. It’s bigger than you think. Depression is the single largest cause of disability worldwide.

2. The stats are real. 10-15 percent of women in industrialized countries and 20-40% of women in developing countries experience postpartum depression (World Health Organization).

Photo caption: Let’s care for mothers with the same gentle care they give to their babies. Grace and Tuntufye. Photo credit: Kangaroo Mother Care

3. Where’s the money? Annual spending on mental health domestically is less than US$ 2 per person, and is even less in low-income countries.

4. The REAL issue. Stigma. It’s one of the many reasons that even in the U.S., only 15% of the nearly 1 million estimated women with postpartum depression receive treatment.

5. Long term effects of mothers not receiving needed treatment can lead to chronic life-long psychiatric disorders for both mothers and their children.

The more research we can do on the prevalence of postpartum depression, the more attention we can bring to the great need for education, awareness and quality treatment for this issue and mental health in general. Hopefully, this will contribute to a healthier population by decreasing stigma, increasing the amount of people receiving treatment, and ultimately reducing the global disease burden.

How you can take action:

Take action with Postpartum Progress. Join a climb on June 21st to help raise awareness for postpartum depression. And follow Postpartum Progress on social media with the hashtag #COTD14. You can also share, tweet, post and help raise awareness for this important issue.