Maternal Mental Health Concerns in the U.S. and Abroad

I was pleased to see this article from The Hindu because it confirmed my belief that most people are under the impression that perinatal depression and anxiety disorders are strictly Western phenomenon. This notion is totally false; both conditions that affect the mother during pregnancy and post delivery are worldwide, sadly experienced by women of all cultures, incomes, and geographic locations.

The particular interest of the research group cited in this article is breastfeeding. Their study found, and as my therapeutic experience confirms, perinatal depression and anxiety can not only lead to breastfeeding problems at times, but more even more critical, it can affect bonding, as well as the health of the mother, father, baby, couple and entire extended family.

In their report, the writers pointed out that “maternal mental health problems, commonly referred to as post-partum depression, are widespread and have both short- and long-term consequences on the mother and the child. They comprise a wide spectrum of issues — depression, anxiety and phobias — and can start in pregnancy or anytime in the first year after the baby’s birth.”

An important theme in this article is the unfortunate fact that maternal mental health issues and concerns — as opposed to physical health — are often neglected and forgotten during infancy and childhood. This message is particularly timely because it will soon be the observation of World Breastfeeding Week beginning August 1.

In a meeting of those concerned with maternal mental health, one of the participants observed, “With a routine doctor’s consultation lasting for an average of 1.5 minutes, there is little or no time to adequately address the multiple complexities of maternal health or to provide psychological counseling.” (Sadly, this is true in the United States, as many a pregnant woman — who is hastened out of her OBGYN’s office — will attest.)

A member of the Bangalore Birth Network added that a mother’s mental health had an impact on the fetus, because ” a delicate bond is created between the two during pregnancy.” Following birth, the mother’s mental state can affect her ability to breastfeed, which this expert considered, “an important determinant of the baby’s immunity to disease, infection, mental and emotional health and intelligence quotient.”

I’d be very pleased if this article spreads to other members of the U.S. medical community, besides yours truly. It’s a message that can’t be repeated often enough.

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~ by ppdsus on August 1, 2014.

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