Postpartum Depression, a Prevalent, yet Rarely-discussed Mental Health Topic in the Region

Sidra Medicine announced the results of a qualitative study on “Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences of Qatari Women Related to Childbirth,” which touched on the participants’ experiences and perceptions of postpartum depression (PPD). The results, announced in conjunction with yesterday’s Sidra  Medicine Symposia Series event on the same topic, revealed that participants believed PPD to be caused by solitude due to being confined to the home for the 40 days of the postpartum period, as well as the concern that there is lack of education regarding PPD for both families and healthcare providers.

Addressing some of these concerns, the Sidra Medicine Symposium on Postpartum Mental Health discussed diagnosis and treatment of PPD, in addition to resources available in Qatar for women suffering from the illness. Moderated by Sidra Medicine’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joachim Dudenhausen, the event featured local and international speakers, including Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD, Professor in Nursing and Medicine at the University of Toronto and Dr. Madhu Pahwa, a Neuro-Psychiatrist who has been working in Doha for the past 13 years.

“One in ten women and almost half of women in industrialized and developing countries respectively suffer from postpartum depression. For such a prevalent and often debilitating disease, it is rarely discussed in many societies, including Qatar’s. The Symposium Series was created in order to educate healthcare providers to improve treatment, and we hope decrease the stigma surrounding less commonly discussed but prevalent issues,” said Dr. Dudenhausen.

Dr. Dennis, who is currently the principal investigator for studies related to the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression, examining the relationship between maternal and paternal postpartum depression and early child development, said, “PPD is a major health problem for many women from across many cultures. While the exact cause is unclear, one of the strongest risk factors is antenatal depression and antenatal anxiety, meaning that knowing early signs of PPD and early detection are key to successful treatment.”

Commenting on the prominence of this topic in the local community, and the significance of raising awareness and changing the perception of this medical issue in Qatar and the region, Dr. Pahwa said, “Very few local and regional studies exist exploring the effects of PPD, which hinders the awareness and treatment of this ubiquitous mental health issue.”

One of the very few studies conducted locally was a 2013 report by Weil Cornell Medical College and Hamad Medical Corporation, which found a 17.6% prevalence of PDD among Arab women in Qatar. “I hope that today’s event is one of many to follow to help start an open dialogue about postpartum depression,” concluded Dr. Pahwa.

The Sidra Medicine Symposium Series is an ongoing medical education program designed to build understanding and awareness of clinical research and best practice in the areas of women’s and children’s health.