Postpartum Depression Among South Asian Women

We are only beginning to hear about the prevalence of postpartum depression in the larger community, so it comes as no surprise to me that we hear about it even less within the South Asian community. Recent research suggests that Indian women, particularly new immigrants, may be at a higher risk of postpartum depression than their non-Indian counterparts. Experts suggest isolation stemming from the immigrant experience and a lack of the traditional support system often found in the home countries, as reasons for increased prevalence among Indian women.

In the United States, about one in 10 women suffers from postpartum depression (PPD). South Asian women may be at a higher risk for PPD, due to the impact of acculturation and cultural customs including factors such as arranged marriage and the gender of the child.

A groundbreaking 2007 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that 28 percent of Indian American women suffered mild symptoms of postpartum depression and 24 percent suffered major symptoms. The paper-titled “Immigrant Asian Indian Women and Postpartum Depression” is the only study of Indian American women and postpartum depression. [link]

Dr. Nirmaljit Dhami, medical director of the new Maternal Outreach Mood Services program at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., says that post-birth, many women present symptoms of tearfulness and crying. Sadness, emptiness, feeling overwhelmed, having a short temper, appetite changes and withdrawal from family and friends are all symptoms common to postpartum depression. [link]

The article correctly states that women have more resources available to them in India including family members who are willing to help out. However, I’m sure many women living in India are also affected by postpartum depression – it is justless likely to be diagnosed and treated. Similarly, immigrant women living in the Unites States also have a difficult time seeking help,

Indian American women are also unlikely to seek treatment for depression, said Dr. Kaveri Patel, a family practitioner in Fremont, Calif., who sees a number of South Asian women in her practice. “Women raised within South Asian families are not typically taught or encouraged to discuss emotional distress for cultural reasons,” Patel says. “The stigma of having a mental illness is huge in the South Asian community and it keeps women away from getting the care they need.” [link]

There are many cultural factors that impact the immigrant woman’s vulnerability of being affected by postpartum depression.

In several studies conducted in India and Europe, giving birth to a female infant was directly related to postpartum depression. There is great pressure on women to produce a male heir, especially for women who already have one girl child, the studies concluded… “The struggles of fitting into a new society and the isolation many women feel increases stress, which can result in mood disorders,” says Narasimhan. She has found that key factors in successful acculturation include community support, places of worship and the company of other women. Genetics can also play a role. “If your mother and grandmother suffered from postpartum depression, it’s likely you will as well,” Narasimhan says. Other physical factors for postpartum depression include hypo-thyroidism and anemia, both prevalent among South Asian women. [link]

Finally, I think it’s important to add that mental health issues affect the South Asian community extensively. However, we are still struggling to have dialogues around these issuesand ultimately this justleads to a lack of understanding and knowledge and a lower chance of individuals reaching out for help.

More on TLH related to mental health issues.


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28 Responses to “Postpartum Depression Among South Asian Women”

  1. Anandica says:

    I think mental health issues are very high in men and women in our community. I would like our generation to be one of "healthy" change, where we can openly talk about issues without worrying what other people will say. I am very lucky to be a part of a family where we all sit down on a regular basis and talk through anything and everything. That openness has built healthier relationships in our family, as-well as being a great support system for each of us. It would be great to see more communication within families.

  2. Anandica says:

    I think mental health issues are very high in men and women in our community. I would like our generation to be one of “healthy” change, where we can openly talk about issues without worrying what other people will say. I am very lucky to be a part of a family where we all sit down on a regular basis and talk through anything and everything. That openness has built healthier relationships in our family, as-well as being a great support system for each of us. It would be great to see more communication within families.

  3. […] members, as it offers insight into risk factors you may not have considered before. Click here to read this interesting piece. Posted in PPD Risk Factors, Self-Help and Postpartum Wellness | […]

  4. Tamara says:

    I think there is always a risk for moms everywhere, regardless of location. Thanks for mentioning India, however, do you happen to have any information regarding postpartum depression issues from other South Asian countries? Thanks in advance!

  5. Tamara says:

    I think there is always a risk for moms everywhere, regardless of location. Thanks for mentioning India, however, do you happen to have any information regarding postpartum depression issues from other South Asian countries? Thanks in advance!

  6. Anne John says:

    A baby can be a life-altering experience in more ways than one can possibly imagine. Although motherhood is a very important part of every woman's life, all the unnecessary hype and high expectations can lead to frustration and a sense of despair. There is a need for awareness so that people don't ignore the signs of postpartum depression and overcome the culture of silence that is so prevalent in our community. This is another helpful article on this subject http://www.womensweb.in/item/motherhood-from-joy-

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