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Understanding Postpartum Depression in the Philippines: Causes, Symptoms, and Seeking Support

Updated: Jun 13, 2023



Welcoming a new life into the world is an experience like no other. It's also a time of incredible change, both physical and emotional. Because entering motherhood is a huge adjustment period, it can leave us feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and sometimes lost.


Postpartum depression and baby blues are two conditions that affect women after childbirth, but we don't talk about it enough. During this time, it's so important to ask ourselves what we're feeling and to seek support when we need it. Let's delve into the prevalence of these conditions in the Philippines, explore the different causes, symptoms, and the importance of seeking help.


Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues

Baby blues are a common and relatively mild condition, affecting up to 80% of new mothers. Feeling sad and having mood swings in the first two weeks after childbirth is very common. In fact, 4 out of 5 moms experience baby blues.


A smaller yet significant percentage of moms, however, experience something more serious — perinatal depression or postpartum depression (PPD) — with 2 out of 10 moms developing clinical depression during pregnancy or until a year after childbirth. It's a more severe and long-lasting form of mood disorder that affects many aspects of a mother's life, not just parenting.


Given the challenges new moms and moms-to-be face, one of the most isolating is wondering if what you're feeling is "normal" or not. It is important to distinguish between the two and seek appropriate help if needed.


baby blues vs postpartum depression
Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression


Prevalence and Impact of Postpartum Depression in the Philippines


Data surrounding postpartum depression and baby blues in the Philippines is limited — yet another shred of evidence that awareness on maternal mental health is limited too. But there are studies conducted that shed light on the hardships of PPD and its diagnoses.


"It is estimated that at least 50% of postpartum depression cases are unrecognized."

Adewuya, A. Early Postpartum Mood as a Risk Factor for Postnatal Depression in Nigerian Women. Am J Psychiatry 2006; 163:8.


"It is the most common perinatal psychiatric disorder, with women at greatest risk during their first postpartum year."

Moses-Kolko, Eydie and Erika Kraus Roth. Antepartum and Post-partum Depression: "Healthy mom, healthy baby.” Journal of American Medical Women’s Association. 2004; 59:181-191.


It is crucial to recognize that postpartum depression and baby blues can have a profound impact on the well-being of mothers and their families. Cultural factors, societal expectations, and lack of awareness contribute to the underreporting and under-diagnosis of these conditions. Other risk factors like low income, teenage pregnancy, and domestic violence increase the prevalence for a third-world country like ours.


Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2018, there were 196,657 recorded cases of teenage pregnancies 9.2% of the total number of live births

  1. According to a survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2017, around 16% of ever-married women aged 15 to 49 years old have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence committed by their husband or partner.


A study in 2013 in Dasmariñas, Cavite used and translated the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) – a test developed in 1987 to identify women who may have postpartum depression – to a total of 118 patients:


26 participants had a score of at least 10 points (suggesting postpartum depression) corresponding to 22.61%. 9 of these respondents... scored at least 1 in question #10 indicating suicidal ideation corresponding to 7.83% of the population.

Maria Delina E. De Chavez, MD and Marian Capco-Dichoso, MD, FPOGS, FPSREI. Prevalence Of Postpartum Depression Among Mothers Who Delivered In A Tertiary Hospital. Philippine Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2013.


 

Postpartum depression (PPD) impacts the mental and emotional health of so many new mothers, often going by undetected. While it's normal to feel the full spectrum of emotions during a challenging transition such as motherhood, some might be fighting a very lonely battle against it without even knowing.


If you're feeling overwhelmed, experiencing intense sadness, or even feeling shameful for suffering during this supposedly beautiful milestone, it's crucial to get the help you deserve.


 


Symptoms and Risk Factors


While the exact causes of postpartum depression and baby blues are not fully understood, the following factors all play a role in its diagnosis:

  • hormonal changes

  • lack of sleep

  • physical recovery from childbirth

  • emotional adjustments

In the context of the Philippines, cultural expectations of motherhood, isolation, and limited social support may further contribute to the development of these conditions.


Recognizing the symptoms and signs of postpartum depression is crucial for early intervention. But the reality is PPD is hard to detect, simply because taking on motherhood can be confusing. With all the changes and emotions it brings, we don't know what is normal and what is not. PPD comes in different forms, not just sadness but also anxiety, despair, numbness, and more.


the language of postpartum depression
The Language of Postpartum Depression

There is a hidden language of postpartum depression behind the words a mother might say. When you hear yourself or a mom-friend speak these words, it might be worth looking further into your thoughts and feelings, and pinpointing what the source of these thoughts are.


In addition to distressing or negative thoughts, symptoms of postpartum depression can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, anger, or irritability

  • Physical symptoms like changes to appetite or sleep; feeling heavy or tired

  • Loss of pleasure or joy; lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities

  • Feeling disconnected from others, including the baby

  • Thoughts of harming self or the baby


Baby blues typically last for a few days to a couple of weeks and are characterized by:

mood swings

  • Sadness

  • Irritability

  • Tearfulness


Coping with Postpartum Depression, Baby Blues, and Motherhood


As mothers, it's in our nature to take care of our family before we even take care of ourselves. But coping with the struggles of motherhood is a tall feat, one that's almost impossible without a support system around us.


As moms, it's important to identify our circles of support – those who lift us up, cheer us on, ask what needs to be done, and help us through the tough days. Whether it's a partner, family member, friend, or healthcare provider, knowing who we can turn to is a vital tool for coping with the changes and stresses of new motherhood.⁣



Sample Circles of Support


how to find your circle of support
How to Find Your Circle of Support

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression or baby blues, seeking professional help is a light at the end of a dark tunnel.


Therapy, Treatment Options, and Support


Whether it's an emergency or you simply want to sort out your feelings in a safe space, reaching out to mental health professionals can provide the support and guidance you need.

"Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for postpartum depression and can help parents navigate changes in thinking, behavior, and mood. CBT can help individuals build hope, overcome feelings of helplessness, better care for their own physical and mental health, and set reasonable expectations for themselves and others."

Sofia Chernoff, PsyD and Sarah Fleming, BA. Coping with Postpartum Depression. Beck Institute.

 

At Beacon, you can find a safe and confidential space where you can connect with our team of experts who specialize in maternal mental health. You are not alone on this journey.


 

Treatment for postpartum depression may involve therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help mothers develop coping strategies, challenge negative thoughts, and improve their overall well-being. Medication may be prescribed in more severe cases, but of course, it should be mentioned to the therapist if the mother is breastfeeding. Additionally, joining support groups or seeking peer support can provide a valuable network of individuals who understand what you're going through.


Postpartum depression and baby blues are significant challenges faced by many mothers in the Philippines. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and importance of seeking professional help, we can create a supportive environment for new mothers and remind ourselves to take care of our own mental health. Because well mothers, mother well.


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