Stigma Kills: What Women Need to Know About Maternal Depression
News Maternal depression takes a toll on the mental health of new mothers. If left untreated, it can have a detrimental impact on children.
When I learned I was pregnant, it was an exciting time. One year following the birth of my daughter, I thought my marriage was over. What I know now is that the irritability and feelings of inadequacy I was experiencing were signs that I was suffering from a form of maternal depression that resulted in severe marital stress.
By the numbers
Maternal, or perinatal, depression encompasses a range of mood disorders that can affect a woman during pregnancy and around the time of birth. At least 1 in 5 women suffer some sort of depression or anxiety during their pregnancy or after childbirth. In low-income populations, the ratio increases to 2 in 5.
Despite these numbers, maternal depression is hardly ever discussed. Having a baby is supposed to be the happiest time in your life.
Shortly following the birth of my daughter, I met a group of intelligent, strong, capable women who have also suffered and recovered from perinatal depression. But for each of these women, there are thousands who are suffering in silence.
Left untreated, maternal depression leads to long-term depression in the mother, emotional unavailability for the baby and detrimental outcomes in the development of the child.
The good news? These conditions are often preventable and highly treatable. But for that to happen, we must normalize the condition and remove the stigma.