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9 in 10 Mothers Not Aware They Suffer From Postnatal Depression: NHMS Survey

Postnatal depression was more common among mothers living in urban areas and younger age mothers.

Infographic on postnatal depression among Malaysian mothers from the National Health and Morbidity Survey on Maternal and Child Health 2022. Graphic by the Institute for Public Health, National Institutes of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 – Almost 10,000 mothers surveyed for the National Health and Morbidity Survey on Maternal and Child Health (NHMS MCH 2022) suffered from depression after childbirth. However, an overwhelming majority of them, nine in 10 mothers, were unaware of their condition.

In total, 11.2 per cent or 9,415 mothers surveyed had postnatal depression but only 0.8 per cent of them knew they had depression, while 10.4 per cent of the mothers were undiagnosed.

According to the survey report, postnatal depression was more common among mothers living in urban areas and younger age mothers.

A study published in PLoS One Journal cited antenatal anxiety, preference of infant’s gender, low social support, low income and history of depression as related risk factors for postnatal depression.

The study, which was published on November 9, 2021, noted that Malaysian mothers in particular, who suffered from depression during pregnancy and were perpetually worried about their child were at substantially higher risk of developing postnatal depression. Other associated factors include marital problems and low household income.

Malaysian women who underwent emergency delivery were twice as likely to suffer from postnatal depression. Furthermore, the study found that incidences of postnatal depression were greater among mothers who resided with their extended families.

Adherence to traditional postpartum practices was associated with postnatal depression among Malaysian women living in comparatively rural environments, but not in urban areas like Kuala Lumpur.  

Women are more likely to seek treatment and support if they are aware of the condition and have sufficient knowledge about postnatal depression including symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment, researchers noted.

However, they pointed out the dearth of studies on awareness and knowledge of postnatal depression among Malaysian mothers.

Aside from wide-reaching public education campaigns so that more people can be made aware of the condition, researchers also suggested organising educational programmes that focus specifically on groups of women who have a higher probability of developing postnatal depression and have lower knowledge about the condition.

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