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The taboo of postpartum depression in the Middle East

Sarah, in the early stages of her pregnancy, received conflicting information about the possibility of her unborn child having Down Syndrome. Firstly, her initial doctor informed her in the sixth month, but she decided to seek a second opinion from a doctor in the big city, far away from her home in the Rural areas, hoping for a different outcome. She continued to doubt the second doctor's reassurance after being told that her baby was in good condition and remained convinced that her child was unwell, believing that the doctor was hiding the truth.

This obsession consumed her thoughts, causing her to neglect her son after his birth and even yell at him when he cried. Unfortunately, her surroundings failed to comprehend her struggles, resulting in blame and accusations of neglect. Eventually, her distress intensified to the point where she contemplated divorce. After several months, she realized that she needed to take control of the situation herself. Setting aside her own emotions, she embarked on the journey of raising her son, although she still finds herself raising her voice when he behaves in ways she dislikes.

Sarah was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) without knowing it or undergoing the correct treatment. PPD is a condition that affects some women after childbirth. It is an important issue to explore and understand, as it can have a significant impact on the affected person

Unfortunately, few people respond to treatment for various reasons, including the lack of recognition of mental health issues in certain regions, such as the Middle East. This, coupled with the failure of the environment to respond to cries for help and the tendency to accuse sufferers of exaggeration, creates a challenging landscape for those seeking assistance. Financial constraints can also prevent individuals from affording psychotherapy sessions, further exacerbating the problem. However, one of the most significant barriers to addressing PPD in Mediterranean cultures is the belief that strength lies in suppressing feelings, and anyone who openly expresses emotions is considered weak or failure.

Whether the cause of the condition is known or unknown, whether it is important to us or ridiculous, it remains severe for the mother. For example,  Maryam had always held onto the dream of becoming a mother and had made extensive preparations for her child's arrival. She had imagined the appearance and features of her daughter and had made all necessary arrangements such as clothes and toys. However, she had not anticipated the emotional impact of labor and the onset of postpartum depression. No one had informed her about the potential psychological effects of unexpected circumstances. When Maryam had to undergo a surgical delivery instead of a natural birth, it caused her anxiety. The surgery left her with visible internal and external scars, serving as constant reminders of her experience. 

She felt overwhelmed by feelings of impending doom upon seeing her husband post-operation. A sense of suffocation, racing heartbeat, and rapid breathing consumed her. Numbness and a bluish tint spread across her body, while those around her failed to provide the necessary support, exacerbating her worsening condition. Finally, a nurse came to her aid and administered a sedative to alleviate her distress.  After the recurrence of panic attacks, her doctor suggested starting a therapeutic journey accompanied by psychotropic medication.

The taboo of PPD in the Middle East is linked to the idea that it is okay for women to neglect themselves and their feelings. The downsides of living this way can be dire. Women should not succumb to pressure from their surroundings or ignore self-care. All of these factors will ultimately have an impact on their well-being, their ability to properly raise their children, and their children's own psychological state, as it is influenced by the family environment.