August 10, 2017 2 min read

Even though having a newborn is regarded as a joyous occasion, it can sometimes be difficult or impossible for women to feel cheery while they have a newborn at home. Worldwide, about 10-15% of mothers experience postpartum depression. A drop in estrogen and progesterone immediately after birth cause this condition that is characterized by extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. However, environmental circumstances and lack of awareness and care leave those in developing countries particularly at risk for not only developing this condition, but for it developing into such a debilitating condition that the mother becomes a risk to herself and the baby.

Worldwide, 13% of women experience a mental disorder (usually depression) after childbirth. But in developing countries, the rate is 19.8%. This could be due to poverty, extreme stress, migration or natural disasters. In places like Ghana, challenges for maternal mental health care include lack of trained staff, lack of funding and affordable medication and social stigma. Postpartum depression is a mental disorder that needs to be treated with either medication or therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy or inter-personal therapy). However, in many countries, people view depression as a spiritual or personal issue, therefore leaving it untreated.

Postpartum depression is dangerous to both the mother and the baby. Postpartum depression can lead a mother to be neglectful in the care for her infant. Mothers experience extreme sleep deprivation and cognitive deficits such as having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions. In a study of Nigerian mothers, infant growth was compared among infants with depressed mothers and non-depressed mothers. Infants with depressed mothers experienced significantly less growth in the first 3 months of life. Moreover, depressed mothers stopped breastfeeding earlier and their infants were more likely to experience diarrhea or other infectious illnesses. Issues in child development may become clear if the mother is left untreated. Self-care and behavioral challenges may arise.

Poor health of the baby is a clear risk factor for depression. In a study done at a maternal hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, 70% of mothers with babies in the critical care unit showed depressive symptoms, with 27.4% showing moderate depression and 9.8% showing moderate/severe depression. Risk factors indicated in the study were intimate partner violence, a lack of social support and home births. Having your baby hospitalized is another stressor contributing to postpartum depression. Maternova supplies products to third world countries that can help mitigate sickness at birth that may cause the baby to be hospitalized. These products can also make home births safer. While our products target physical health, physical health can positively impact mental health. 

By Frances Palmer


Referenced material:

Adewuya, AO, Ola, BO, Aloba, OO, Mapayi, BM, Okeniyi, JA. (2008, May). Impact of postnatal depression on infants’ growth in Nigeria. Journal of Affective Disorders. 108 (1-2). doi:10.106/j.jad.2007.09.013

Gold, K. J., Spangenberg, K., Wobil, P., Schwenk, T. L. (2012, December). Depression and risk factors for depression among mothers of sick infants in Kumasi, Ghana. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 120(3).doi: 10.1016.j.ijgo.2012.09.016

University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Postpartum depression prevalent in under-developed countries, could impact baby health and mortality. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (2017). Maternal mental health.

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