Expat moms in China more prone to postpartum depression

Published:  14 Jul at 6 PM
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Tagged: China, Jobs
Uprooting from family and friends and relocating to the totally unfamiliar culture of China may mean increasing the risk of post-natal depression for new mothers.

Although many expat wives find a move to an exotic location such as China a stimulating experience, the lack of front-line support for new mothers from family and friends is becoming a serious problem. A major difficulty is the Mandarin language, leading to feelings of isolation and an inability to cope with the everyday tasks of new motherhood.

Time differences make it difficult to stay in regular communication with family back home, and husbands are often too immersed in their new jobs to notice there’s something not quite right at home. Wives may also be reluctant to admit they’re having problems with feelings such as depression, a sense of isolation, hopelessness and sadness, all symptoms of post-natal depression.

French gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Juliette Kinn from Beijing’s Oasis International Hospital believes a high number of new expat mothers in the city experience some form of baby blues after giving birth. A loss of appetite and constant crying are early warnings of postpartum depression and, if the condition isn’t diagnosed and is allowed to continue, the baby will also be affected emotionally.

One expat mom who gave birth via a Caesarean section recounted her experience, including the fact that her husband panicked rather than reassuring her during a resulting seven-hour post-operative bleed. Once home, she video-chatted with her family but couldn’t forget her panic and loneliness just after the birth. Her lack of the Chinese language affected her severely as she was alone most of the day caring for the baby as well as attempting to shop for essentials.

Beijing’s pollution caused added stress as she was afraid for the baby as well as for her own health. As she became more isolated and desperate, her depression spiralled until she was persuaded to seek help. Dr Kinn believes that expat mothers should be advised to get regular checks for the symptoms of post-natal depression rather than attempting to cope on their own. She also strongly recommends involving husbands in supporting, helping and listening to their wives, even if they’re struggling to integrate into an unfamiliar work environment.
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