Depression After Childbirth A Silent Killer In India

The symptoms of depression in new mothers can be mild.

There is still very little recognition of clinical depression after childbirth – an illness that affects 20% of mothers in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

India roughly sees 130 million births every year. If the situation continues, more and more women are likely to suffer.

Nandita, an IT professional from Bangalore began to hallucinate after her baby was born.

“I was not supposed to go out of the house. I was with the baby all the time. Everything was revolving around the baby. So it got worse,” she said.

It was lucky that Nandita identified her experience as not normal and reached out for help.

But according to The National Crime Records Bureau, over 20,000 young mothers, mainly housewives, kill themselves every year, making them the largest demographic in India to commit suicide. The figure is followed by farmers.

Professor Vikram Patel, co-director of the Centre for Chronic Conditions and Injuries at the Public Health Foundation, said: “It is an important question as to why female suicides in India are so high — 6 to 7 times higher than comparable age groups in Western Europe”.

The symptoms of depression in new mothers can be mild — like anxiety, crying spells, mood swings, lack of sleep. Others face difficulties in bonding with the baby, negative thoughts and hallucinations.

The triggers are many — from an unplanned pregnancy to an abusive or alcoholic spouse, pressures to have a male child and hormonal changes among others.

“Fifteen out of 100 women will have some significant mental health problem, either depression or very severe anxiety… So it is a huge problem if you look at the number of mothers in India,” said Dr Prabha S Chandra, Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry in Bangalore’s NIMHANS.

For thousands of women, especially in villages, who go undiagnosed and battle child-birth related depression, there is now treatment under the newly launched PRIME project in Sehore.

The PRIME project, designed by Professor Patel, integrates mental healthcare with primary health care. But of the 29 states in India, only Madhya Pradesh has an intervention programme for neo-natal depression related problems, where all expecting mothers are screened.

Replicating this model may well be the need of the hour.


  1. People over 54 who suffer from steadily-worsening depression may run a higher risk of developing dementia, according to a new research published that suggested it may be an early symptom.

  2. I have seen this with a friends wife, and it was hard to understand. Parents (previous generations) are of no help since they think this is new age stuff because of mental weakness.
    It is no wonder no one was talking about this; please highlight this so that we can save lives of our dear mothers.

  3. This is very true. I experienced severe crying spells in the first 2-3 months after I delivered my son. At one point, I was breastfeeding and crying at the same time and was trying hard to not let the salty tears fall on my feeding infant. Sounds very dramatic, I know, but it was my reality. I tried hard to analyse and figure out what was happenning to me and felt like it was a combination of factors.
    1. Lack of enough emotional support from spouse: We are women, we need to be hugged, kissed, pampered and feel cared for – especially a lot more after we have gone through something as traumatic for our body as a pregnancy and child birth – whether it is natural delivery or caeserean.
    2. Lack of physical support: I did not have my parents/sisters around due to sudden illnesses in the family, so it was just me, my husband and the newborn. And no domestic help. So we were managing everything on our own, living on restaurant food, and combined with the excruciating lack of sleep, it was no wonder I felt the way I did. New moms (and dads too) need a lot of help around the house and someone trusted to take charge of the baby while they try to get whatever little sleep they can.
    3. Raging hormones after delivery and during breast feeding. I feel like the first 8 weeks after delivery is when the body is trying hard to bring down the levels of pregnancy hormones still raging in the body annd also producing hormones for milk supply.
    Luckily for me, things got much better after around 3 months or so. I think it was partly because the hormone fest slowed down a bit and also because of my innate nature of being cheerful and positive. I am sure that this period can vary from one mom to another.
    In the western world, PPD (post partum depression) is clearly recognized and treated. I am glad India is taking steps to do the same.

  4. Very true I personally experienced this and as already mentioned above members of the family also need to be educated about these symptoms so that they can be of help to the new mothers

  5. i agree with this prime project. please be save to her life.who had dipression.
    i would like to say thanks for who thinking about the womens life.
    we have to save her lifes.

  6. I totally agree … as a mother of two kids i have faced severe anxiety post pregnancy … educating the members of family is the right step… elderly people are not even aware of this, as they see it as normal situation… Husband’s cooperation is much needed during this time… also counselling helps …

  7. It is extremely shocking & sad the see these numbers. Have no clue on The PRIME project, however is also a great need to educate every member of family but not just the expecting mother.

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