Examining Postpartum Depression Among Asian-Indian Women

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Research has shown that one in 10 women in the U.S. experience postpartum depression, and "South Asian women -- particularly newer immigrants -- may be at a higher risk for [postpartum depression], because of difficulties adjusting to a new culture, loneliness, isolation and the lack of a traditional Indian support system," New America Media reports.

A 2007 Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study found that 28% of Indian-American women experienced mild postpartum depression and that 24% experienced major depression symptoms. Because of stigma and cultural reasons, Asian-Indian women are less likely to discuss their depression with others or seek treatment for the condition, according to Kaveri Patel, a family practitioner in Fremont, Calif., who treats many South Asian women.

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According to New America Media, lack of social and family support in large part can explain why so many Asian-Indian women experience postpartum depression. In Indian culture, it is customary for extended family to assume responsibility for care of a newborn and to allow women to rest after childbirth, Deepika Goyal, author of the 2007 Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study, said.

Patel said, "Many South Asian women who have moved to the U.S. have left all or part of their extended family behind. Their husbands may have full-time jobs that further contribute to their feelings of loneliness and isolation." Nirmaljit Dhami, medical director of Mountain View, Calif.-based El Camino Hospital's Maternal Outreach Mood Services program, added, "People have many more resources in India, including cheaply available help and family to pitch in. Here, the most helpful person is a long-distance phone call away."

Other causes of postpartum depression among Asian-Indians include genetics, acculturation and the "pressure ... to produce a male heir," New America Media reports (West, New America Media , 9/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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