More than 20 percent of mothers in disaster areas of Miyagi Prefecture who gave birth around the time the Great East Japan Earthquake struck are showing signs of postpartum depression, a survey showed.
The average rate for postpartum depression under normal circumstances is 10-15 percent, according to Junichi Sugawara, a professor of obstetrics at Tohoku University who led the survey.
“We would like people to assist new mothers--not just pregnant women--to help the younger generations who are expected to lead the rebuilding efforts,” Sugawara said.
Through medical institutions in the prefecture, Sugawara’s team of researchers asked around 700 new mothers about their mental health between late last year and March this year.
The researchers determined the mothers’ conditions based on the frequency of certain responses, such as they “felt sad and miserable” or “felt like hurting themselves.”
The survey found that 21.5 percent of the respondents may be suffering from postpartum depression, which requires treatment by psychiatrists or other specialists.
Among mothers directly affected by the tsunami on March 11 last year, the rate rose to 28.7 percent.
The figure was 23.9 percent among mothers who evacuated from their homes or their parents’ homes after the disaster.
Sugawara said the significant change in the mothers’ living environment was probably not the only cause of the relatively high rates of postpartum depression.
He said many of the new mothers in Miyagi Prefecture did not have enough time to learn how to take care of their babies during checkups at medical institutions.
He said family members and health-care workers should pay constant attention to the well-being of new mothers in the disaster areas.
Tohoku University plans to bolster its assistance, including dispatching doctors, to the stricken areas.
The results of the survey will be discussed at a conference of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology that starts on April 13 in Kobe.
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