Researchers in a recent survey at the Mother-Baby unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching hospital in Kumasi have indicated a high rate of post natal depression in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi.
The survey further indicates that children of mothers with such conditions are vulnerable to other health risks.
According to the 2011 survey, 153 women in the Mother-Baby unit of the Teaching hospital exhibited moderate to severe degrees of post natal depression.
Postnatal or Postpartum depression (PPD) is a moderate to severe depression that occurs in women after birth. The condition is characterized by sadness, tiredness, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, as well as anxiety and crying episodes.
Even though the exact causes of post natal depression are not known, studies point to factors such as lack of social support, childcare stress, prenatal anxiety, as well as unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. Women with fewer resources have also been cited to have a higher level of postpartum depression and stress than those with more financial resources.
Dr. Ernest Kwarquo, Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, describes the situation as ‘worrying’ saying “it is a problem we have swept under the carpet for far too long and something should be done about it.”
He explained that generally, Ghanaians tend to view such birth-related conditions as normal and thus fail to seek appropriate medical attention for women with such conditions.
He also noted that “the society in general lacks an appreciation of what depressive psychiatric conditions are” and mistake them for normal stress. Subsequently, post natal depression is under reported, he noted.
Dr. Kwarquo however indicated that many people attribute the symptoms of depression to spiritual or personal issues rather than a psychiatric condition which could be treated.
Dr. Kwarquo maintained that young mothers below age 18 are more prone to post natal depression largely because they are not economically equipped to cater for themselves and their babies.
According to Dr. Kwarquo, the situation for these mothers is compounded by inadequate organised social support for mothers suffering from depression as a major setback to addressing the situation.
Additionally, most of these single mothers are not in matrimonial union that could ordinarily provide partner support to handle the stress that comes with child birth and child care. He added that society frowns on single mothers and “alienates them, but we should do better than that”.
Dr. Kwarquo has therefore described the re-designated ministry for Gender, Children, and Social Protection as “spot on” and hopes it would live up to expectations. He also urged the re-designated ministry to prioritise addressing depression on its agenda.