Postpartum depression doesn’t care where you live

Jennifer Pinarski believes that the Canadian Medical Association Journal has it all wrong when it comes to postpartum depression.

1PPD-August2013-iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

The CBC recently reported on a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) that found women in urban areas are more likely to report cases of postpartum depression compared to their rural sisters. The study looked at the experiences of 6,000 women living in rural, semi-rural, semi-urban or urban areas and it suggests that almost 10 percent of the women living in a city reported coping with postpartum depression, compared to only six percent in rural areas. Data for the study was pulled from a 2006 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey.

Read more: New test may predict postpartum depression >

Despite having birthed both my babies in Winnipeg — which would have put me under the urban mother suffering from PPD category — I strongly disagree with the CMAJ study, for three reasons:
● It looks at women who reported suffering from PPD. Not all women speak up about their feelings.
● Lifestyle differences and resources available to rural women were not taken into consideration. Doctor shortages and the distance between towns make healthcare and friendships more challenged.
● Depression doesn’t care what your postal code is. Everyone is at risk.

Read more: Lisa Gibson could have been me >

To see if I was right in thinking that the CMAJ was off base, I checked in with my friends — a mix of urban and rural mamas to see what they believed.

“That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard today. I don’t think it matters where you live. If something is triggered it’s triggered, regardless of where you live. I do know there were many days early on I wished we lived in a more urban setting.” — Kelly via Twitter

“I’m not rural, but I think any mom can suffer from PPD, regardless of where she’s from.” — ‏@onemessymomma4h via Twitter

“I would argue that there are more rural women suffering with postpartum disorders, but because there’s a lack of support and connection to identify their struggles.” — Allison via Facebook

“I didn’t get diagnosed with PPD, but I was depressed and still get like that. Feel stuck in the country, felt alone once DD came.” — ‏@crystal_lou_who3h via Twitter

“Rural moms have it harder. Less services, kids activities, and support for families. Plus travel is much harder.” — @MamaMimi284h via Twitter

“I thought it was an odd finding, too. I have friends in smaller towns who have none of that and always wish they had easier ways to meet other parents and things to get them out of the house, which always helps moms feel less alone in the postpartum period.” — Tracy via Facebook

It paints a bleak picture of raising babies in the country, doesn’t it?

Having moved back to my small hometown — with less than 2,000 permanent residents — when Gillian and Isaac were six months and three years, respectively, I was worried about meeting other parents and finding a family doctor to continue my mental health care. I won’t lie — it took a lot of courage to walk into my neighbourhood Ontario Early Years Centre and call my mental health association to ask for counselling referrals and options for renewing my anti-depressants. At one point I even had to go the the local hospital ER just to have my prescription filled because of the shortage of family physicians. Rural life may have meant a safer environment in which to raise my kids, but it meant losing the wide choice of playgrounds, libraries, coffee shops and playgrounds all within walking distance — not to mention mental health professionals.

Read more: Depression and its impact on motherhood >

Reality: The first days of motherhood are HARD, no matter where you live and whether it’s your first baby or your fifth. That’s why it so important to reach out to new mothers and lend a hand where we can. That woman in the store balancing a car seat on one hip and a toddler on the other? Help her bag her groceries and push her cart to her car. The mom heating a bottle of formula at Starbucks in a mug of hot water? Buy her a scone and a tea.

Social media has made connecting with each other easier, but nothing takes the place of a sympathetic soul and a random act of kindness.

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