Researchers in Canada have discovered something that may give some young, city slicking women pause: mothers in urban areas are at a higher risk for postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression, a long-lasting, severe depression that usually develops in mothers during the first two months after childbirth. Symptoms can include sadness, changes in sleep or appetite, irritability and episodes of crying. In many cases, mothers may feel worthless and think about hurting themselves or their baby.
It takes a village to raise a child, a big city to make mom depressed.
Dr. Simone Vigod, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, put together a survey that reached over 6,000 Canadian women living in rural, semirural, semiurban, and urban areas. Ten percent of women living in urban environments indicated that they had postpartum depression, compared to just six percent of participants in rural regions.
Dr. Vigod explains that, ironically, women living in heavily populated areas actually receive less social support than women in suburban or rural communities. Even though urban women interact with more people, they are more likely to be displaced from their families. Support from relatives may be critical in mitigating postpartum depression, especially from the new mother’s own mother.
Postpartum depression is not uncommon in mothers and many factors can increase the chance of its development. Young women and those who experience an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy are at higher risk, as are women who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Presence of anxiety and/or depression in family members may also put a woman at an increased risk.
Despite the prevalence of the condition, many women do not seek professional help to treat depression. Many write their symptoms off as a passing case of “baby blues.” Others worry that they will experience social embarrassment or be labeled as a “bad mother” if they admit that they are having difficulty. Still others fear that their child will be taken from them as a result of their negative thoughts.
“It’s not just something you’re supposed to suffer through, and then you’ll be fine postpartum,” Dr. Vigod says. “You actually may be causing problems for your baby, yourself and the relationship long-term.” Antidepressant medication coupled with frequent conversations with a medical doctor or therapist is often a very effective treatment plan for mothers going through postpartum depression.