Postpartum Depression in the Asian Community
By: Ashima Diwan Schafi
For new moms, the level of anxiety and fear that takes over every ounce of your being is something unexplainable. You find yourself spiraling through a black hole of research articles during your sleepless nights leading up to delivery. However, each morning, you awake feeling just as unprepared as the day before. Nothing prepares you for what’s to come. No Google searches, no stories from loved ones, no books or podcasts.
Becoming a new mom takes a toll on not only you, but also your marriage, mental health and emotional wellbeing. There is an overwhelming level of pressure from society and social media to maintain appearances and pretend everything is peachy and perfect from the moment you bring your little one home. But those who have lived it, know this isn’t the truth.
I was pregnant with my first baby during the peak of COVID-19, causing my pregnancy to become lonely and isolated. I was able to have my husband and mother in the delivery room with me, but no other family was able to see our son once he was born. And after bringing him home, things took a turn for the worse.
The stress of being new parents, my ever-changing hormones, being quarantined in the house 24:7, and a severe lack of sleep were things we were not prepared to tackle. My husband and I began fighting incessantly and the stress eventually caused my milk production to completely dry out. Instead of relishing sweet moments with my new baby, I found myself crying in a dark room for many hours each day. I was depressed.
I come from South Asian descent and my husband is Middle Eastern. Depression is not only kept hidden in our cultures, but often frowned upon and viewed as a weakness. I felt as though I couldn’t openly express what I was going through. And when I did, I was told it was just my hormones and to “wait it out.” But waiting didn’t help – it made it worse. On top of all of this, I was being shamed for being unable to breastfeed my child. A topic that should not be of anyone’s concern but my own, but was being asked about by everyone. Instead of finding ways to help me, I was made to feel weak and incompetent as a mother.
There are many things that can cause a new mother to find themselves battling with postpartum depression. The stress of new parenting, hormonal imbalances, dissatisfaction with your newfound body, and especially, the pressures from outsiders to be a “good mom.” Postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, but is still being kept hidden, especially in minority communities. Being a new mom is hard enough, but having to suffer in silence is unbearable.
Thanks to the support of my husband and family, I called my doctor, began medication and started meeting with a counselor. I fought postpartum depression and overcame it. But I was lucky. Throughout my pregnancy, I talked with many new moms battling the same difficulties, but with no support. The dangers accompanied with untreated postpartum depression are serious and can have long-term effects on both mom and baby. I was fortunate enough to have a support system to bring me back to good health, but many do not.