Expat mothers at greater risk of post natal depression

by Ray Clancy on April 7, 2014

Expat mothers are at a greater risk of suffering some form of post natal depression as they may not get the same support, especially from close family members, it is claimed.

They are advised not to be shy of discussing any concerns they may have with their doctor and also to check that their health insurance covers all possibilities.


Expats are also advised to think about making sure depression is covered in their health insurance

Depression can become severe if mothers have an unsupportive partner or if they cannot access a support network elsewhere, something many new expats struggle with in the beginning, according to Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology which has centres in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The symptoms of post natal depression include prolonged periods of fatigue, anxiety and irritability. This occurs as a direct consequence of the birth of a child and it is estimated that 9% to 16% of new mothers will experience it. It can also affect new fathers, although this is less common.

Dr Abou Allaban told the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Conference held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, that early diagnosis and treatment is paramount to recovery.

‘When a woman is not treated early, she could suffer relationship problems with the spouse, with the children, her job. It is the woman that usually pays the price,’ he explained.

‘Doctors should be more aware of this and pay attention to any signs of depression in the mother and advise her to seek help,’ added Dr Abou Allaban.

However, mental healthcare professionals have pointed out that the social stigma of mental illness stops many women from seeking medical help. This is especially the case for women living in a foreign country, who may feel uncomfortable talking to their expat doctors about mental illness.

It is also thought that in the Middle East cultural differences could also affect the relationship that a new mother has with her doctor or other health professionals. Expats are also advised to think about making sure depression is covered in their health insurance. Health insurance is now compulsory in many Middle East countries including popular expat locations in the United Arab Emirates.

‘Ensure that full support is factored into your birthing plan and should you experience post natal depression symptoms, inform your doctor at the earliest possibility,’ said Nic Brown, the global head of distribution at international health services firm Aetna International.

There are a number of active post natal support groups for expat mothers in the UAE.


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