Overcoming postpartum depression

The story of Gylxhan

UNICEF
Nurse Neime holding Gylxhan's newborn during a home visit.
UNICEF/2017/Morina
20 June 2017

Following childbirth, many mothers go through the ‘Baby Blues’, a medical condition whose technical term is postpartum depression. In Kosovo, where mental illness is extremely stigmatized and many people lack vital health information, postpartum depression oftentimes goes unnoticed and untreated. In the midst of this reality, Home Visiting—through systematic consultations and examinations— is emerging as a fundamental undertaking in identifying and treating mothers with this condition.

A few months ago, chief nurse of the Main Family Health center in Prizren, Neime Shehini, together with another nurse, headed to the field to conduct a home visit with a mother who had recently given birth.

“Immediately after meeting the mother, we noticed that something was off,” Neime says. “She had edema in her legs, skin flushing, and a very high blood pressure.” “She was lethargic, sleep-deprived, anxious and visibly distraught.” As a result of many years on the job, and due to capacity development supported by UNICEF, Neime knew immediately that what she was dealing with was postpartum depression, and that it was not to be taken lightly.

“We took her to the center where doctors examined her and prescribed her medication to treat the high blood pressure and edema. But I knew that to alleviate and overcome the postpartum depression, it was going to take several visits, with heart-felt, reciprocal and respectful communication.”

Indeed, Neime and other nurses conducted home visits for 10 days in a row, assessing the young mother’s condition and progress each day. The 10-day-long process contributed to a significant reduction in parental stress, maternal depression and anxiety.

The benefits of home visits in addressing postpartum depression are now clearly documented. Women who receive psychosocial or psychological interventions are significantly less likely to develop postpartum depression*.

Recollecting the events that had happened a few months back, the mother, whose name is Gylxhan, said: “After giving birth, I wasn’t having the best time (…) I didn’t really understand what I was going through, but I wasn’t feeling well,” Gylxhan says. “I didn’t know I had high blood pressure, and I didn’t think the swelling around my legs was a big problem. All I knew was that I was feeling very anxious about my baby.”

Nurse Neime in the Main Family Health Center standing next to a sign reading “Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby”.
UNICEF/2017/Morina
Nurse Neime in the Main Family Health Center standing next to a sign reading “Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby”.

“I cannot begin to explain what a big help nurse Neime was. I consider her as part of my family now because of the loving-kindness and familiarity to me. She lifted a great burden off my chest.”

“I would want for every mother to have access to this service, because it makes the transition to parenthood easier. Now it’s also easier to go to the health center knowing that I have someone there who cares deeply about me and my baby.”

Lacking vital health information, Gylxhan had trouble understanding that the symptoms she was showing constituted a real problem. Had it not been for nurse Neime’s home visits, Gylxhan would have gone undiagnosed indefinitely. According to Neime, it’s precisely the cases like these that show the importance of Home Visiting. “To me the biggest value of home visiting is that it identifies mothers who lack vital health information, provides that information to them, and reassures them that they have our support,” she says.

After saying goodbye to Gylxhan and her 4-month-old baby, Neime makes her way back to the health center. “It feels good to see young babies and their mothers all over Prizren doing well, knowing that we have played our part in it,” she says.