Postpartum depression is a severe and lasting type of depression that is distinct from the usual baby blues. Giving birth, especially for the first time, is a life-changing event. New mothers are faced with a host of challenges, including worrying about how to raise a child, financial considerations and how the baby will strain the relationship with the father.
In addition to these natural worries and concerns, new mothers are also faced with the physical demands of childbirth and childcare. Pregnancy causes huge changes to a woman’s life and to her body. Hormones shift and result in powerful emotions that seem uncontrollable. For a woman who has to deal with postpartum depression on top of everything else, motherhood can get off to a rocky start.
Exactly what causes postpartum depression in some women is not fully understood. There are a range of factors including the emotional upheaval, the hormonal changes and the lifestyle changes. Now, research has indicated yet one more factor: where a woman lives. Women living in cities are more likely to struggle with postpartum depression.
Moms in the City
Researchers from the Women’s College Hospital and Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, recently published the results of a study on postpartum depression in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The researchers investigated data related to more than 6,000 women across Canada. The women lived in urban, semi-urban, semi-rural, and rural areas and had participated in a survey asking mothers about their maternity experiences.
More than 7 percent of the mothers in the study had experienced postpartum depression. Among women living in an urban area—which is defined as living where the population is over 500,000—the rate was 10 percent. In rural areas, the rate was 6 percent, in semi-rural it was 7 percent, and in semi-urban areas the rate was lowest at 5 percent. The results clearly indicate that women living in large cities are more likely than their peers to struggle with this type of depression after giving birth.
There are already known risk factors for postpartum depression that earlier research has discovered. They include being socially isolated, having a history of depression, and being an immigrant. The authors of the recent study believe that these risk factors are higher in women in cities, and that the unequal distribution accounts for the higher amount of depression in urban moms.
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
Social isolation is an important risk factor for depression in new moms. The upheaval that comes along with becoming a first time, or sometimes a second time, mom has profound effects on woman’s life. The stresses can be overwhelming, and any mother who has a good social support network is bound to cope better with the changes than those who do not. Whether that means having a helpful husband or partner who shares care duties, having a grandparent around to help, or just having plenty of friends with whom to commiserate, social support is important for new mothers. Researchers believe that women living in cities are more isolated than those who live in other areas.
A history of depression is another important risk factor, but how this could be related to city living is still unclear. Being an immigrant is another risk factor, and one that is more prevalent among women living in cities. This factor could be related to social support, as immigrant women report feeling more socially isolated than other women.
Helping Moms With Postpartum Depression
More studies that figure out why some women, and not others, develop this devastating mental illness after giving birth should help to prevent and treat it. By understanding that women in cities are more likely to develop postpartum depression, public health officials and mental health professionals can actively reach out to help more women.
Because social support is such a huge risk factor, the researchers hope that their new information will lead to better connections for urban moms. Public services that help new moms connect with each other could have far-reaching consequences. Better mental health services could also help in preventing postpartum depression. Women who have a history of depression are at risk, and if they receive early and preventive treatment, it could make a world of difference. The more we understand about moms and depression, the more help women can get.